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Salman Rushdie's, "Midnight's Children" begins with the birth of Saleem Sinai at Midnight on August 15, 1947. Interestingly enough it was the exact date of when India first gained its Independence. The Novel proceeds to explain the birth of Saleem Sinai. Saleem's Grandfather, Aadam Aziz falls in love with Naseem. When they get married they bear five children. Nadir Khan, who is forced to live in Dr. Aziz's cellar, marries his daughter Mumtez. After two years a marriage of no intercourse falls apart. Nadir leaves a note in the cellar pronouncing his divorce to Mumtaz. She later marries Ahmed Sinai and changes her name to Amina Sinai. Shortly afterwards Amina is pregnant.
The story then becomes complicated because Mary Pereira, who is a mid-wife, switches Ahmed and Amina with Vanita and Wee Willie Winkie's baby. Our narrator Saleem is therefore raised into the Sinai's home while Shiva, the baby of Ahmed and Amina is raised in a much poorer home. This act guaranteed Vanita's son a life of comfort. Shortly afterwards Saleem's mother, Amina gives birth to Saleem's baby sister The Brass Monkey.
Saleem begins to hide in closets because he feels like the outside world overwhelms him. One day, when he was hiding he hears his mother on the phone and call out Nadir Khan's name. It became evident that Amina still had feelings for Nadir Khan. Shortly afterwards Saleem learns of his newfound powers created from the lodged cord of his pajamas in his nose.
Saleem secretly sneaks into his mother's car when she goes on her urgent shopping trip. He confirms that she is indeed having an affair when he sees her meeting with Nadir Khan. Saleem is treated at the hospital because he lost a middle finger. It is there where the doctor reveals Saleem's past. The doctor notes that Saleem shares neither Amina's nor Ahmed's blood type. Amina finally stops her affair when she hears about a jealous husband who, in a fit of rage, murdered his wife and her lover.
Mary Pareira, finally reveals the secret of how she switched the babies at birth. The marriage of Amina and Ahmed takes a blow and gets so bad that Amina leaves Ahmed and takes the kids to Pakistan. The Brass Monkey earns a new nickname, Jamila Singer, because of her newfound singing ability. The Family returns back to India when they get news that Ahmed has heart problems.
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Parvati-the-Witch then strangely summons Shiva who gets her pregnant so she could convince Saleem to marry her. A short time and a marriage later Aadam Sinai is born on midnight. Aadam is born with huge ears and does not speak a single word. The end of the book concludes with Saleem expecting to marry Padma. Saleem admits that he has lied about how Shiva died. He in fact was shot although not through the heart, by one of his lovers. At the end of the day Aadam says the word "Abracadabra" Saleem is proud of his son and although worried about the world he's leaving behind for his son, senses that he will be just fine. He notes that when his son sleeps his eyeballs don't move and he is pleased to discover that because he knows that he doesn't "surrender to dreams."
To analyze this book the first step would be to analyze Salman Rushdie. Salman was born into a Muslim family and grew with western and eastern influences. He went to England as a youth and moved from India to Pakistan with his family. He wrote with a bias against the Muslim faith. It became evident in every book and when "The Satanic Verses" was written there was a fatwa against him by an Iranian clergy. The Fatwa was later removed and Rushdie came out of hiding. He apologized for his actions by writing, "In Good Faith". Salman Rushdie has some similarities with the characters of the book. His family moved from India to Pakistan, just like Saleem's mother has done. Rushdie has always believed in challenging the norms of society and show the importance of individual belief. Saleem's grandfather has throughout his life struggled to believe in God. Rushdie's allegiance to India and Pakistan clouded his sense of identity and always pulled on the strings of his morality. Saleem is clearly distressed throughout the novel over the same problem that Rushdie has faced. Salam Rushdie writes about his beliefs, thoughts, and even experiences in, "Midnight's Children".
The characterizations of his characters in this book are somewhat believable but, due to the magical nature of the book, are clearly fictional. Shiva, for example, has superhuman powers while Saleem can read people's mind. The characters are mostly all tragic. Saleem fights within himself to try to answer the questions of his existence and identity. Marriages are disrupted on several occasions. Amina rekindles her love with both Khan and Ahmed. She is confused with her feelings and does not know how to both contain and show it. She dies in a very tragic way along with her unborn child. The problems that the characters face are universal. Characters face problems like adultery, a sense of identity, belief or disbelief in God, health problems, aggression and other problems that are widespread. An argument can be used that there are some problems that are particular to the situation of the troubled times of India, such as the changing sense of nationalism and Saleem's troubled sense of identity. Although there are some dilemmas that are particular to the situation in India, most are more universal to human nature.
The most important theme of this novel is the recurring theme of unknown parental figures. Throughout the novel Saleem refers to people as his parents. He searches for them, but has no success. It is as if the least important characters of the novel are his actual parents. This sense of a parentless child could be interpreted as the way India lacks a true sense of identity due to British rule. India in 1947 lacked a true sense of independence because of the long British rule. Saleem feelings of having two different sets of parents are like India's troubled double parentage.
The social structure in the novel shows that each of the male characters in the novel are influenced by the women that they interact with. Women in the novel are important and the effects they have on men should not be understated. Saleem is attracted to women but at the same time are repelled by them. His conflicting attitudes of women are especially true of Jamila.
Magic can be seen as a way to bind Indian culture of its past to the present chaos of mixed cultures in India. Rushdie uses this magic to show the readers that history itself is sometimes inaccurate. The act of using fantasy and fact can make a novel believable while grabbing the reader's attention. The magic in Rushdie's novel is used for entertainment purposes.
Rushdie's religious and political views can be seen as challenging the norms of society. In his novel he sympathizes with the Saleem and his grandfather even though they are quite controversial. Saleem and his grandfather's religious beliefs are defiant of Islam. Even though Saleem was born in a Muslim family, to him the existence of God is in question. Rushdie seemingly puts himself into his works and gives reason to believe that Saleem is a replica of himself. His religious views of Islam are negative. Saleem seems to want to appropriate some of the Islamic tradition's authority while at the same time he questions its legitimacy.
Rushdie urges individualism and modernity as opposed to tradition and family solidarity. In the novel he sympathizes with the more westernized Indian characters rather than the more traditional ones. Shiva compared to Saleem is much more powerful physically, but Saleem is always concerned with the future and the hope of a better future. Saleem uses logic to solve his problems while Shiva uses his brute force. Rushdie shows that there is a clash between the old and new when Ahmed is confronted to sell his residence to make new for modern developments. The act of Saleem hiding in the closet from the outside world and his family reinforces Rushdie's beliefs of individualism because Saleem does not want to yield to the outside world and the norms of it. In the last paragraph of the story Saleem is confident that his son will be able to learn from the mistakes of the past generations and this shows that Rushdie is accepting of change and not afraid of it.
Studying works of creative literature to understand another society and its history serves a very important purpose. If we study History just through the means of historic text then we will never see the whole picture. The feelings of people would be left behind. Just as we are seen from Saleem, history is not always reliable. The act of Saleem admitting that he lied about the way Shiva died and the inaccurate events and historical context through the novel purposefully placed by Rushdie serves to reinforce the fact the history can sometimes lie.