Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children tells the story of Saleem Sinai and takes place throughout the history of India during the year 1915-1978. As Saleem is approaching his 31st birthday, he tells his life story to his confidant Padma, since he prophetically foresees his impending death. The retelling of his life begins with his Grandfather, Adaam Aziz, and the events leading to Saleem’s birth. Saleem’s character is interesting because of events and qualities that have set him apart. He was switched with another baby at birth and was born with telepathic powers. Importantly, Saleem was born at the exact hour of India’s independence from British rule. This correlation leads to the turning points of his life coinciding with various major events that happen within India. The novel concludes with Padma proposing to Saleem, and suggesting that their wedding be on his 31st birthday. Saleem refuses the proposal because he prophesied that his death would be on that day.
Salman Rushdie introduces his readers to numerous thought-provoking ideas through the novel. The attention to detail regarding Indian history, geography and culture are evidence that Rushdie is a native of India. “Salman Rushdie is the quintessential migrant: born in India, schooled in England, forced by his parents to move to Pakistan and finally exiled back in Britain”( Schröttner). The novel includes many major themes that are not only specific to India, but can be universalized as well. Rushdie includes the juxtaposition of destruction and creation, and fate and freewill, as well as themes surrounding identity crisis and fragmentation.
The theme of destruction vs. creation repeatedly appears throughout the novel. The most prominent symbols of this theme are Saleem and Shiva; the boys who were switched at birth. Shiva and his dad come to Saleem’s house to beg for money, on a weekly basis. However one this particular day, Ahmed, Saleem’s father, refuses to give Shiva money. Shiva is already filled with embarrassment from having to beg for a living and he becomes furious from being brushed off by Ahmed. As he leaves, he takes Saleem’s ball from him in a jealous rage. Shiva lives a life filled with frustration, anger and aggression , and it stems from witnessing Saleem’s privilege while he had next to nothing. Through her act of switching the boys, nurse Mary created a great life for Saleem, and she also destroyed Shiva’s future. As a result “Saleem and Shiva employ two distinct strategies to attain status as leaders.” (Tracy, Weidman) The juxtaposition of destruction and peace is seen through Shiva’s obsession with war and violence, while Saleem strives for peace and harmony.
Destruction vs. creation is also evident in the novel through Saleem’s loss of power. All 1,001 children born at midnight are born with special powers. Through his nose, Saleem has the power to bring all the children together. Just by wiggling his nose, Saleem could summon the children together in his room...