Analysis of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children
Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children employs strategies which engage in an exploration of History, Nationalism and Hybridity. This essay will examine three passages from the novel which demonstrate these issues. Furthermore, it will explore why each passage is a good demonstration of these issues, how these issues apply to India in the novel, and how the novel critiques these concepts.
The passage from pages 37-38 effectively demonstrates the concept of history, as it foregrounds elements important to this issue. Rushdie, challenges the conventional modes of history through his self reflective narrative structure. The passage is a good demonstration of its topic as it illustrates the problems of re-writing history. His mode of writing attempts to encourage the reader to reconsider the valid interpretation of his history. Saleem writes “please believe that I am falling apart” ,as he begins “to crack like an old jug”, illustrating a sense of fragmentation of his story. This parallels the narrative structure of the novel as being circular, discontinuous and digressive. This fragmentation appropriates the concept of history, which was developed by colonisers. History works for a particular class of ideology, and therefore it will be contaminated, oblique and subjective.
The ‘fictionality’ of history is grounded in the simple assumption that life is shaped like a story. For Saleem, who is “buffeted by too much history”, it is his memory which creates his own history. “Memory, as well as fruit, is being saved from the corruption of the clocks”. This reflects back to concepts of time and place. Yet, for Rushdie, it is not based on the universal empty time that has been conceptualised by the colonisers. Notions of time and space are integrated into his own history.
The novel critiques concepts of history by challenging traditional conventions. Rushdie uses unreliable events to subvert official notions of history. For example, in his description of the Amrister Massacre he describes the troops that fire on the crowd as being white, when they were not. He does this perhaps to illustrate how much history is based on interpretation and ideology. It also illustrates how fact (written down as history), fails to take into account different notions of space and time. For example, in the passage on page 37, Saleem mentions the game of hit –the- spittoon, in which Nadir Khan “learnt from the old men in Agra”. For Saleem, this is history, and although it is just a story of his, it now has been documented and becomes history. This illustrates the problems faced by post-colonial writers in re-writing history. They become marginalised , as history was based on public events. Yet, Midnight’s Children draws on many historical events, which parallel that to India’s. Saleem Sinai provides us with an alternative version of India’s modern history from his point of view. For example, he was...