Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children Essay

Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children Essay

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Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children

Salman Rushdie's creation, Saleem Sinai, has a self-proclaimed "overpowering desire for form" (363). In writing his own autobiography Saleem seems to be after what Frank Kermode says every writer is a after: concordance. Concordance would allow Saleem to bring meaning to moments in the "middest" by elucidating (or creating) their coherence with moments in the past and future. While Kermode talks about providing this order primarily through an "imaginatively predicted future" (8), Saleem approaches the project by ordering everything in his past into neat, causal relationships, with each event a result of what preceded it. While he is frequently skeptical of the true order of the past, he never doubts its eminence; he is certain that everyone is "handcuffed to history" (482). His belief in the preeminence of the past, though, is distinctly different than the reality of time for the Saleem who emerges through that part of the novel that Gerard Genette calls "the event that consists of someone recounting something" (26) (Saleem-now, we can call this figure). Saleem-now is motivated to act not by the past, but instead by the uncertainty and ambiguity of the future. Saleem's construction of his own story is an effort to mitigate the lack of control he feels in looking toward the unknown future. To pacify himself he creates a world that is ordered but this world is contrary to his own reality.

Saleem spends much of his energy in the story setting up neat causal relationships between events in his past to demonstrate his place "at the center of things" (272). He carefully mentions his tumble into the middle of a parade for the partition of Bombay and then proceeds to propose that "in this w...


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...e idea of apocalypse. His emphasis on the future rather than the past seems, in part, an implicit statement about the ease with which order is found in the past‹historians have a much easier time than futurists, and Kermode would rather deal with the task of the tougher profession. Martin Heidigger's explanation for the way the individual in the midst of time gains meaning similarly emphasizes the future: "running ahead is the fundamental way in which the interpretation of Dasein is carried through" (13). In his creation of Saleem-now Rushdie seems to agree with the vitality of the future in defining the individual, and by juxtaposing this reality with the temporality that Saleem hopes for, Rushdie exposes the temporal myth that a too-strong-desire for concordance can engender.

Work Cited

Rushdie, Salman. Midnight's Children. Great Britain: Arrow Books, 1995.

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