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Discuss The Function Of Errata Or 'unreliable Narration' In Salman Rushdie's "Midnight's Children".

1847 words - 7 pages

In Salman Rushdie's critical essay, '"Errata": or, Unreliable Narration in "Midnight's Children"', he comments that 'It is by now obvious, I hope, that Saleem Sinai is an unreliable narrator, and that "Midnight's Children" is far from being an authoritative guide to the history of post-independence India.' Throughout the course of this essay I shall be examining the techniques Rushdie uses to create the unreliable narrator, his authorial purpose, and the effect the inclusion of errata has upon the reader.A significant example of unreliable narration is Saleem's error regarding the Hindu belief that the god Ganesha sat at the feet of the bard Vyasa and took down the entire text of the Mahabharata from beginning to end. Saleem boasts that 'despite my Muslim background, I'm enough of a Bombayite to be well up in Hindu stories' but then continues to make several errors in his recounting of this tradition, including the names of both the poet and the text. Rushdie believed that Ganesha's elephantine nose and dubious parentage prefigure Saleem's, and the fact that he should make such an obvious blunder concerning a myth so relevant to himself is ironic, and also 'a way of deflating that narratorial pomposity' .In Rushdie's collection of essays entitled "Imaginary Homelands", he reveals how he took immense effort in making Saleem's narrative unreliable. He tells how 'originally error-free passages had the taint of inaccuracy introduced. Unintentional mistakes were, on being discovered, not expunged from the text but, rather, emphasized, given more prominence in the story' . However, many readers criticised the historical or factual inaccuracies that comprised a great deal of Saleem's narrative. Many resented the book's incompleteness and the vast quantity of errors, but Rushdie defends that 'these variously disappointed readers were judging the book not as a novel, but as some sort of inadequate reference book or encyclopaedia' . This is exactly what Rushdie is trying to avoid, as he felt that 'history is always ambiguous. Facts are hard to establish, and capable of being given many meanings' .Rushdie questions the legitimacy of traditional history and challenges the reader's previous assumptions. In Saleem's narrative, what is usually composed of historical facts is shown to be a mixture of truth, lies, and different individual's interpretations. Saleem's account of the war of the Rann, in which he describes how 'in the first five days of the war, Voice of Pakistan announced the destruction of more aircraft than India had ever possessed; in eight days, All-India Radio massacred Pakistan Army down to, and considerably beyond, the last man' is an example of Rushdie's belief that in history, 'nothing was real; nothing certain'. His view was that in the face of so many lies, anything could potentially be true, and this is reflected in Saleem's narrative. He admits that his account of history is unreliable, but that his story is 'as likely to be as true as...

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