Term Paper: Salman Rushdie

Pages: 12 (3835 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] Given the subject matter of the book, this aspect has garnered criticism from others.

Rushdie's portrayal of India and Indian's might be seen as guilty of stereotyping in his use of magic realism and the implication that India can only be described in terms of disunity, fantasy and irrationality, precisely those terms used by the orientalists to 'keep the natives down' (Myers, 1996).

Another scholar writes a]lthough he writes about his native land, he carefully abstracts its features and makes them exotic, as if to reflect the uncomfortable similarities between himself and an adventurer stationed in London selling Oriental wares to a public whose tastes he knows from several decades of travel (Brennen, 1989).

There is no arguing about the existence of this postmodern element in Midnight' Children.

The question is, is the use of fantasy and fairytale a proper considering the subject? I think that it is a proper use of the tool, and I do not think that the text is at all disrespectful; I think that mystifying it is done almost as a term of respect. That Rushdie uses fantasy indicates that he does not fully understand is not capable of fully understanding. The fantastical elements of the novel hint at the fact that it is unknown and therefore something to be revered and respected. Magic is not something to be trifled with, it is to b e handled and treated with respect.

Besides respect, people often romanticize and mystify the things that they long for. Adults often associate childhood as being a magical time, when the wonders of the world abounded. Not all was known or though to be known. The world during childhood is still mystical, something that gets lost as we grow into adulthood. Even though it is a magical time, it is something that adults treat with great reverence and lament the fact that children seem to grow out of the magical stage so quickly.

Magic then, is not something to be frowned upon, not something that as meant as degradation to the people or the land or the culture, but something that honors the land, the people and the culture. Saying and showing that magic has returned to a place is not saying anything derogatory or bad, indeed, we should all be so lucky that a little magic would return to all of our lives.

Closely intertwined with the idea of magic and fantasy in this novel is the idea decolonization. This is central to the magic of the novel, for all the children's magical powers are derived from the Independence of India from Great Britain. The closer they were born to the moment when magic returned to The Indian Subcontinent, the stronger their powers are.

At its most basic level, the element of decolonization represents moving beyond colonization. Without getting too political here, if fantasy and magic and mystery are seen as good things, then the British, and by extension all colonizing countries can be seen as very bad indeed. In short, the pre-colonized country is magical. Rushdie treats as foreign because after the British left, life returned to what it was before the arrival of the British. Because Rushdie, or Saleem as it were, does not know anything about India prior to the colonization, he treats it as if he were a foreigner, because, in many ways, he is a foreigner in his own land. This brings up questions of authenticity in the representation of the world.

The rhetoric of authenticity strategically acts as a politics of resistance in the politics of decolonization, which urges a recuperating return to an "original" prior to the colonial period. The national narrative thus constructed not only interpellates the individuals as national subjects, but also upholds purification and a sanctification of an "autochthonic" culture which comes earlier then the hegemonic colonial culture. Such a fabrication of a national origin conjures up a sign of identification and recognition in cultural practices and regimes of representation, which, operating through an unproblematic, transcendental law of origin utilizes the authentic as a way of division. Authenticity, connected to the ideas of race, ethnicity, culture, religion, and nation thus predetermines the aesthetic and political validity. This limitless expansion of the ideal of authenticity dangerously hampers the growth of a culture in that it ionizes the concept of 'the authentic' and treats the alien cultural influences as something that hybridizes and thereby contaminates the pure indigenous culture (Su, 1999).

It can then be said that the idea of decolinization, alienation, and the idea of a fairytale world go hand in hand. Although Su seems to say that the outright condemnation of the foreign culture is a bad thing for the Indian culture and that the decolonization can be just as harmful as colonization seems to miss the point a little. The colonization was a bad thing, there can be no doubt about that in light of the events. But given that it happened, we have to make do. I said earlier that the magic is a good thing, this does not change that, although the magic does not always have good consequences, living in a place where the colonizers have left and the magic has returned is, well, magical. However, the idea that spreads and idea that all things were better before the colonization happened is not necessarily good, nor is the idea that, because the magic has returned and the colonizers have left is also a dangerous idea. A look at any newspaper will tell the reader that all is not well in the Indian subcontinent. In other words, the people of the Indian Subcontinent may not have had magic, but they did have peace.

It is alien too, as I have already mentioned, to Saleem, the land where the magic has returned is not foreigner for just that reason, and it is also foreign because strife and conflict have returned. Saleem does not recognize the place that the colonizers have left behind. It can be said and should be noted, that the author seems somewhat conflicted. The author himself adheres to no religion, and he is wanted dead by many radical Muslims. He also now lives in the United Kingdom, assimilated, presumably, into Western culture. This book then, seems to be about what the Indian Subcontinent had, and what the colonizers took with them when they left. It is not a condemnation of the British, it is almost sorrowful, but now that they (the British) are gone, the people of the Indian Subcontinent have little left to work with. The solution, it seems for Rushdie, is to try to continue, at least in part, some of the ways of the colonizers, even though the colonizers are absent.

Another postmodernist element that has already been touched upon is the idea of parallel history. The story of Saleem's family, the story of the Midnight Children and the history of the Indian Subcontinent seem to unfold in parallel.

Rushdie, and other postmodern writers abandon linear narrative forms and split open the division between the real and the imaginary. In this revisionist perspective, Rushdie merges fact with the fantastic, firmly linking the fate of his characters' with Indian history. Saleem's birth coincides exactly with Indian Independence, he is ' fathered... By history' (MC, p.118), Saleem is brought up in a house sold to the Sinai's by the mercenary Englishman Methwold on the condition that its British contents be preserved, explicitly highlighting the inescapable legacy of the British empire and the impossibility of building the new nation on purely Indian foundations (Myers, 1996).

Thus it is that so many postmodern elements of the story are very closely intertwined. The ideas of fantasy, and decolinization are linked firmly. With these two go the ideas of fragmented history that seems to run in parallel. Midnight's Children gives the reader a second look at the history of the Indian Subcontinent after they declared independence from Great Britain. Rushdie, wearing the hat of a historian tells us, that the one thousand and the children born on or near the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, have miraculous talents, the magic element that has already been discussed. It was, according to the book, "As though history arriving at a point of the highest significance and promise had chosen to sow, in that instant, the seeds of a future which would genuinely differ from anything the world had seen up to that time" (Rushdie, 1981).

These talents possessed by this people not only signal the magic that has returned to India, it also symbolizes the amazing and wondrous possibilities that India's future could hold. Anything is possible, the subcontinent had been given a Tabula Rassa, a fresh slate where they could make their own history.

Rushdie says it himself in the book, "India, the new myth- a collective fiction in which anything was possible" (Rushdie, 1981).

Saleem and Shiva are both born exactly on the stroke of midnight and swapped at… [END OF PREVIEW]

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