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Midnight’s children thesis Essays

Masaryk University
Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies
English Language and Literature
Dita Polcarová
Historical and Political Issues of
India as Reflected in Rushdie`s
Midnight`s Children
Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis
Supervisor: PhDr. Lidia Kyzlinková, CSc., M.Litt.
2008
Declaration:
I declare that I have worked on this thesis independently,
using only the primary and secondary sources listed in the bibliography. ……………………………………………..
Dita Polcarová
Acknowledgement:
On this page I would like to express my sincere thanks to my supervisor PhDr. Lidia Kyzlinková, CSc., M.Litt, for her extremely helpful and valuable advice on my thesis and for her infinite patience with me.
1. Introduction
The aim of this thesis is to provide a brief insight into the historical, cultural and political development of India some time before and some time again after the independence. Nearly two hundred years of the British rule left an indelible trace in both historical and cultural areas, the traces of it remaining in India to the present day. Moreover, the British imperial rule contributed, among others, to the creation of a completely new literary theory and style – post-colonialism. In my thesis I examine some aspects of post-colonial literatures and I compare both the historical and political facts of India with the historical and political issues as they are depicted in the novel – Midnight`s Children (MC) – by Salman Rushdie. I have chosen this text for several reasons. Firstly, it is considered to be a typical post-colonial novel containing all common aspects of post-colonial literatures. Secondly, it is set in 20th-century India and reveals both the historical and political events that occurred as well as the life of ordinary people in India. And finally, Salman Rushdie is considered to be one of the most significant and controversial authors of the 20th-century literature. In my second chapter I describe the historical background of India. Since India is a country with an ancient history, I have selected only a few decisive events of Indian history that I consider relevant for this thesis in order to provide the reader with the basic historical background. I pay specific attention to the period of the British rule in India and to the struggle for independence, where the great figure of Mahatma Gandhi is introduced. Here I also introduce Salman Rushdie, an
author of fiction and a representative of post-colonial writings. Finally I briefly describe basic points concerning the post-colonial theory, concentrating on some features and aspects of postcolonial writings.
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In my third chapter I focus on Rushdie`s Midnight`s Children. I analyze both the fictional and factual aspects of the story. In the fictional area I discuss the features of magic realism as they appear in the novel. In the factual part I compare the historical facts with ‘the facts’ as narrated in Midnight`s Children. Additionally, I examine some religious issues as depicted in the novel. In the last subchapter I discuss the issue of language. Although the novel is written in English, I find the author`s specific style of writing and his specific usage of the English language worth analyzing. In the conclusion I try to summarize my findings and the text examined. I expect to demonstrate that by writing the novel Rushdie intended to create his own history of the Indian nation in order to provide Indians (and him as well) with making the sense of themselves. On the first page of his novel Rushdie`s main character states about the time of his birth that he “was left entirely without a say in the matter” (3). History is a giant machine that constantly affects the lives of all beings – yet only a few make an input in history, have the ability to manipulate or change the course of History: the Anglo-Indian relationships worked as an immense moveable force affecting all the Indians` live; they also gave rise of great figures such as Gandhi, who taught his people to stick to their own roots and values. In the novel these children – who would otherwise be normal faceless human beings lost in an indefinable huge crowd of people – have been endowed with power because of History, and have therefore been given a possibility to move the course of history by themselves – even the common man may be specific and make some impact on history. By telling his story Rushdie creates a myth that is aimed to support the Indian nation in finding their identity: “Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts.” (MC 57)
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2. Indian Historical Background & Salman Rushdie
From ancient times India was a significant cultural and religious country, yet its appeal to Europeans was primarily for its trade and trading commodities. The battles for the spices led to the establishment of the Honourable East India Company (HEIC) by a royal charter from Queen Elizabeth I. at the beginning of the 17th century and, although the HEIC was “seeking trade not territory” (Read and Fisher 10), the situation ultimately developed differently.
2.1 India in the Past
When the HEIC came to India, the country was ruled by the Muslim dynasty of Mughal emperors, whose continuous need of money for their elaborate bureaucracy made them deal with foreign traders. During the course of the 17th and 18th centuries the British managed to establish several factories which aimed at providing supplies and which later developed into the towns. The factories were located in Bombay, Madras and Fort St. David on the East coast, and in Fort William in Bengal. It was at Fort William where the crucial development of the British rule in India occurred. 2.1.1 The Black Hole of Calcutta
As Read and Fisher describe, in 1756 a new nawab, Siraj-ud-daula, seized Calcutta, “ostensibly in retaliation for British insolence at fortifying their factory without permission” (19) and imprisoned several dozens of British women, men and children “overnight in the fort`s detention cell, also known as ‘the Black Hole’”(Keay 389). According to Read and Fisher, 64 prisoners went into the cell and only 23 emerged out of it in the following morning (19). “The tragedy seems to have been quite unintentional” (Keay 389) since “it was the hottest and most oppressive night of the year – the monsoon broke next day” (Read and Fisher 19) and dehydration and suffocation played an important role. Nevertheless, the blame was placed entirely on
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Siraj due to commander Holwell’s report of 146 prisoners, creating thus “the
imperial myth of Black Hole of Calcutta” (19). In 1757, company servant Robert Clive, in charge of Calcutta, defeated Siraj in the battle of Plassey, starting a clever and calculated conquest of India.
2.2 The British Rule in India
The conquest of India took nearly a hundred years. Even though the first people in charge of India were cruel, malicious and greedy, things began to change after the appointment of Lord Cornwallis as governor-general of British India, as Read and Fisher state: “Cornwallis was the first of the new line of aristocrats who would be sent out one after another until 1947 to rule India on behalf of the British government; men who already have fortunes in England and so would have no need to make more in India” (24). The authors further explain that in the 18th century, the British understood Indians` customs and treated them with respect, but as more British arrived in India, the Anglo-Indian relationship deteriorated rapidly (45-6). The attitude of the Marquess of Dalhousie, who was appointed governor-general in 1848, to India and its people is by Read and Fisher described as followed:
“[…] he was determined to turn India into an Asian Britain. […] Together with the new educational system, Dalhousie`s three great engines – Railways, uniform Postage, and the Electric Telegraph – were to revolutionize communications throughout India, playing a vital part in its unification and making a national independence movement possible in little more than 30 years” (47).
The following governors-general continued in changing ‘non-European’, deeply rooted Indian religious traditions and practices. Among such outlawed practices is the so-called suttee, an old Indian tradition when a widow was burnt together with the body of her
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dead husband; female infanticide and the so-called thuggee, “when gangs of thugs […] accompanied travellers […] and then would ritually strangle them” (Lapping 54). From these “interferences in religious practices” (Read
and Fisher 49), the first revolts against ‘new norms’ emerged.
2.2.1 The Great Mutiny and Its Consequences
In May 1857 the so-called ‘Great Mutiny’, an upheaval of sepoys of the Bengal Army, broke “at one of the largest and most important military stations in India, about 40 miles from Delhi” (Read and Fisher 51). The revilers marched to Delhi and killed every British person they met but, fortunately for the British, “the revolt affected only a relatively small part of India” (52). As the authors aptly describe, “at the start of the revolt, there had been only one British battalion between Calcutta and Agra, so the rebels had had little difficulty in seizing power in the region. The British faced a long, hard struggle to regain it, but regain it they inevitably did. In the end, however, neither side emerged with much credit.” (53) Many British men and women were killed, so “the British wrought a bloodthirsty vengeance on the mutineers, both proved and suspect. […] Nobody knows how many Indians were hanged” (Lapping 56). Similarly to the Black Hole of Calcutta, at the very beginning of the Great Mutiny there was a fatal incident connected with the new paper cartridges that were lubricated by pork and cow fat, a taboo for both Muslims and Hindus. As Keay claims: “Although the offending cartridges were quickly withdrawn, all existing cartridges immediately became suspect” (438). The revolt did not leave only “bitterness on both sides” (Read and Fisher 57) but also mutual disrespect and suspicion. Yet due to the severe punishments “the Indian army was never again to rise in force against British” (Lapping 56). One of the consequences of the Great Mutiny was the end of the HEIC and issuing of Queen Victoria`s proclamation, “the first official act of the British Raj – the word raj means
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simply ‘rule’ in Hindi, but it was to take on a special connotation, coming to mean the entire British presence in India” (Read and Fisher 55). Since 1858 “India was ruled by the British crown, through Parliament” (55).
2.3 Struggles for Independence
The Queen`s proclamation breathed feelings of generosity, benevolence and
religious tolerance, yet “the British officials always carefully ignored those provisions which they found unpalatable. […] Educated Indians, however, accepted it readily.” (Read and Fisher 56) The British also change the system of government in India. “The Indian Council Act of 1861 split the old governor-general`s advisory council into two separate bodies” (Read and Fisher 61) and enabled the Indians to become part of it, however, the authors put it as followed:
“the Indian members were not there to represent their people, but supposedly to keep the viceroy in touch with Indian opinion, so that any disquiet in the future could be nipped in the bud. Although they were ‘token’ Indians their inclusion marked the first, tiny step towards Indian participation in the government.”(61) 2.3.1 Mahatma Gandhi
It would be unthinkable to describe the Indian independence movement and not to mention Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who is regarded as a symbol of independence and a clever resistance to the British rule. Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869 in to a devout Hindu family. He was not an exceptional student, but after the death of his father he was sent to Britain to study law there. After finishing his studies he started his career as a lawyer in South Africa, where he “campaigned continuously for the rights of the Indian community, brandishing Queen Victoria`s proclamation of 1858” (Read and Fisher 146). South-African political agitation not only bought Gandhi popularity but it also helps him to formulate his politico-philosophical doctrine of
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satyaghara. As Read and Fisher state, it “was more than passive resistance. Indeed, Ghandi claimed that it was not passive but active. He described it as either ‘soul force’ or ‘truth force’; ‘the method of securing rights by personal suffering’ […]” (148-9). When Gandhi returned to India, he had already been a popular man, but he “finally became a hero of masses during 1917 and 1918, through three campaigns on behalf of peasants and workers” (Read and Fisher 156). Yet, as the authors claim, Gandhi`s first truly
national campaign ever launched against the British government was the action against the Rowlatt Act. (163)
“Embodied in the Rowlatt Bills, this package of ‘no charge, no trial no appeal’ proved decidedly unpalatable. It bellied the spirit of the imminent reforms, it insulted a people who had lately [in the First World War] made such heavy sacrifices for the empire, and it foreshadowed British readiness to resort to further repression. Even those Indians who now sat on the viceroy`s council unanimously rejected the bills.” (Keay 474).
As an answer to these bills, Gandhi “immediately issued his call for a nationwide hartal” (Read and Fisher 164) – an act of non-violent, peaceful mourning. 2.3.2 The Amritsar Massacre
On 13th April, 1919, the crowd of people gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar, to celebrate a spring festival of Baisakhi, when General Dyer came with his men and immediately ordered them to fire into the crowd. According to Keay “the crowd had offered no threat, Dyer had given no warning; communication was by bullet alone.”(476) On the other hand, Read and Fisher try to compare the standpoints of both sides when claiming that “according to the Indian version the crowd was sorrowing and peaceful – the men have removed their turbans and shoes in the traditional sign of mourning. The British, however, saw the crowd as a menacing mob, which have thrown
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off its turbans and shoe to be ready for battle.” (168) It is obvious that both parties have their own opinions on the situation, however, the impact of the Amritsar massacre on Indian society was considerable. As Keay claims, on that April afternoon, “in a few minutes of vindictive folly, the moral pretence for British rule had been riddled into transparency, and all hope of peaceful post-war collaboration blown away in the maelstrom of killing”(476).
2.3.3 The Independence & the Partition
Since the Amritsar Massacre the independence movement in India started to
rise. Apart from the Indian National Congress, led by Gandhi and later on by Jawaharlal Nehru, there was the second political party – the Muslim League, led by “an ambitious lawyer” (Lapping 81) Muhammad Ali Jinnah. According to Lapping, Jinnah was no fundamentalist and Muslim and Hindu fanaticism were alike distasteful to him. (81) Yet later on, when the negotiations about handing over the power in India were in progress, “the Muslim Leaguers cried, that the Muslims were a separate nation in India, endangered by Hindu extremism and therefore required to fight without quarter against the Congress” (Lapping 90). Yet, according to Lapping, Jinnah needed “a touch of Gandhi magic” (90) to get the support of majority of all the Muslim throughout India. This was finally found in the name of the supposed independent country, which Lapping explains as followed:
“‘Pak’ in Urdu means pure and ‘stan’ means land, so Pakistan means ‘land of pure’. It also forms a mnemonic of the main Muslim-majority areas of northwest India: P for the Punjab, A for Afghania, K for Kashmir, S for Sind and TAN for BaluchisTAN.” (90)
The theory proved effective, when Mountbatten, in June 1947, announced that the date for independence had been changed, from June 1948 to midnight on 14-15 August,
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1947. According to Lapping, there had also been made another change when the British rejected Indians` plans for the Partition. (118) Instead, “the government of British India, with all its British characteristics, would simply be sliced in two and handed over. A series of committees was hastily set up to divide the army, the civil service and the two great provinces of Bengal and Punjab.”(Lapping 118) Since the British were afraid of troubles, the information about award was kept away from the public until the 17th August. “On Independence Day millions did not know which country they were in” (122). This thoughtless political interference, however positively meant, caused irremovable harm to Indian and Pakistani identities as well as to the relationship between both countries:
“Both sides were incensed by what they read. As expected, Calcutta had gone to India, and Lahore to Pakistan – in both cases there were sadness, but no shock. The Indians were angry to find that the Chittagong Hill Tracts had gone to Pakistan, while the Pakistanis were furious to discover that not only Ferozepur but also an important part of the Muslim-majority district of Gurdaspur, in the northern Punjab, had gone to India.” (Read and Fisher 494) 2.4 After Independence
The post-Partition development of both countries was unexpected. The countries did not differ from each other only in the religious issues, but also the gap between the success of one country and the failure of the other widened rapidly. “If India and Pakistan are to be judged by […] decades following 1947, then India is a success, Pakistan is a failure. India in those years succeeded in holding all the territory left to it by the British, while Pakistan lost its more populous half, East Bengal, to a secessionist movement in 1971. India was governed by a form of parliamentary democracy […], while Pakistan`s efforts to maintain
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democratic reforms repeatedly failed, to be replaced by military rule.” (Lapping 138-9)
2.4.1 India and Indira Gandhi
In India, Congress remained a powerful party with its leader, Jawaharlal Nehru, as a Prime Minister. Nehru demonstrated himself as a powerful head and “when he died in office, the regional bosses and power-seekers in Congress did not want a second strong man to dominate them as he had done. […] Congress chose to succeed him a woman who had less than two years` experience of parliament – their own instrument, as they thought.” (Lapping 140) However, Indira Gandi, Nehru`s daughter, “soon routed the congress bosses who had brought her to power” (140). As a Prime Minister she announced new legislation on land holdings, declared nationalization of banks and cancelled the privileges and stipends guaranteed to the princes. According to Lapping, she dominated Indian politics from the late 60s until
1984. (140). When she was “convicted of electioneering malpractice” (Keay 528), in 1971 elections, Indira, instead of resigning, declared a state of Emergency and remained in the office. Keay describes the state of Emergency as followed:
“Troops appeared on the streets; perhaps twenty thousand political leaders, journalists, lawyers and students were goaled without trial. The press was heavily censored and the courts silenced. […] The eighteen-months ‘Emergency’ itself, the strong-arm methods used during it by [Indira Gandhi`s] son Sanjay in the promotion of slum clearance and birth control, […] attempt to secure democratic endorsement.” (528)
As a consequence of her deeds, Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 in “her Delhi garden” (Keay 259).
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2.5 Salman Rushdie & Some Post-Colonial Aspects
Born into a Muslim family on June 19, 1947, in Mumbai, India, Ahmed Salman Rushdie is considered to be one of the most influential, acclaimed and controversial authors of the 20th century. In his works he examines post-colonial countries, depicting the problems of emigration, cultural oppression and self-determination, similarly to the novel analyzed below, Rushdie creates a new history based on historical facts – he sets his main character against “a real historical backdrop”, as Keulks puts it, viewing history through the eyes of his characters. Rushdie`s texts are ranked among the postcolonial literatures blending post-structuralism and post-modernism. Yet, despite his tremendous achievements in the literary field, when many of his works were shortlisted for the Brooker Prize for Fiction, it must be admitted that Rushdie is known, in particular, for the affairs and controversies that followed the publications of some of his novels.
2.5.1 Controversies and Fatwa
Accodring to Keulks, Rusdhie`s first novel Grimus (1975) was not very successful, however, his second novel Midnight`s Children (1981) gained both
widespread popularity and critical acclaim and is considered to be Rushdie`s masterpiece. Both his second and third novels stirred up controversies and the third novel Shame (1983), depicting and criticizing the situation in independent Pakistan in the 1970s, was even banned in Pakistan. Yet the outrage that followed the publication of Rushdie`s fourth novel, The Satanic Verses (1988), cannot be compared to any of the previous publications. In many countries with large Muslim communities Rushdie was accused of blasphemy against Islam because, as claimed, the text shows serious disrespect for Prophet Muhammad. As a result, The Satanic Verses have been banned in most of these countries and in 1989, Iran`s spiritual leader issued a fatwa, demanding a
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death sentence for Rushdie. Fatwa is “a ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority” (Oxford Reference Online) and must thus be obeyed. Although in 1998 the Iranian foreign minister revoked the fatwa imposed on Salman Rushdie, according to Islamic fundamentalists and scholars the fatwa could be cancelled only by that person who issued it, and thus Salman Rushdie`s fatwa is irrevocable. Since that time, Salman Rushdie has been forced to travel with bodyguards, change his homes frequently and lead the life of a political exile whose head is worth more than two million dollars. Although The Satanic Verses had a dramatic impact on Rushdie`s life and became, probably, Rushdie`s best known novel, it is, as Gavin Keulks argues, “hardly Rushdie’s best book” (Oxford Encyclopedia).
2.5.2. In the Shadow of The Satanic Verses
Since the appearance of The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie has published almost a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, yet none of them became so wellknown to the public as The Satanic Verses and Midnight`s Children. The books following The Satanic Verses continue to examine historical as well as contemporary issues, and not only those confined to India. Rushdie has frequently set his narratives in the West, allowing his characters to explore the question of identity, as for example in his recent novel Shalimar the Clown (2005), set in Los Angeles. 2.5.3. Post-Colonial Theory
and Some Aspects of Post-Colonial Writings As mentioned above, Salman Rushdie is an important representative of postcolonial literature. The term ‘post-colonial’ may sometimes be quite confusing. Ashcroft et al. define post-colonialism as a term that covers “all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day” (2). According to them, the expression ‘the present day’ is very important, since “there is a continuity of preoccupations throughout the historical process initiated by European
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imperial aggression” (2) and some aspects of the cultural hegemony of the imperial power are still in evidence. The post-colonial literary theory emerged as an ‘opposition to’ other, explicitly European, theories, that are, as Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin claim, based on “cultural traditions which are hidden by false notions of ‘the universal’”(11). In their concept, post-colonial writings question this cultural “monocentrism” (11), its theories of style and genre and the universality of language. 2.5.3.1 Features of Post-Colonial Literatures
Since post-colonial literature stands in ‘opposition’ to the traditional European literature, the features associated with this kind of literature can be viewed as completely distinct from the features of traditional European literatures. One feature of post-colonial writings is the implementation of magic realism, characterized as “a kind of modern fiction in which fabulous and fantastical events are included in a narrative that otherwise maintains the ‘reliable’ tone of objective realistic report. […] The fantastic attributes given to characters […] – levitation, flight, telepathy, telekinesis – are among the means that magic realism adopts in order to encompass the often phantasmagoric political realities of the 20th century.” (Oxford Dictionary)
The attribution of supernatural features to the main heroes of these post-colonial texts enables the authors to deal with historical and political issues from a different point of view and, in some cases, to
minimize the severity of political development in some post-colonial countries. Among the most frequent topics to emerge in postcolonial literature is the question of identity and its relation to place. The themes of alienation, displacement and the construction of space are combined to create, according to the authors of The Empire Writes Back, a “special post-colonial crisis of identity” (Ashcroft et al. 8-9), which they describe as “the concern with the
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development or recovery of an effective identifying relationship between self and place” (9). These problems with self-determination often result in creation of double-identity – one supernatural within the world of magic realism, the other ordinary one within the earthly world in the country of the hero’s origin. This double-identity helps the authors to provide two different points of view on both historical and political development of their country. The displacement frequently manifests itself in a frequent changing of place of living of the main heroes and in the problems of precise identification with their country of origin. And all those features and themes are found, for example, in the novels of Salman Rushdie.
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3. Midnight`s Children
Midnight`s Children is a complex novel narrating the story of Saleem Sinai, an Indian who is born at the stroke of midnight on August 15th 1947, at the precise time of India`s independence. The time of Saleem`s birth connects him closely with his country, making him “mysteriously handcuffed to history” (MC 3) with his “destinies indissolubly chained to those of [his] country.” (MC 3). In Rushdie`s novel the development of India as an independent and therefore ‘new’ country is compared to the development of a new-born baby, Saleem Sinai. The reader is convinced that what happens to India is heavily influenced by unfortunate accidents that happened to Saleem and therefore that Saleem has a major impact on India`s development. But one must admit that not only Saleem changes the India`s direction of
development, but also his family and close friends have a significant impact on India. Since the novel is full of many minor characters all of whom come into contact with Saleem and all of whom influence Saleem to some extent, it might be claimed that Rushdie compares the whole Indian nation to a little new-born baby. Since many characters come into contact with Saleem Sinai, Rushdie accuses not only the Prime Ministers and persons in power but also the whole nation of the mistakes made and the wrong steps taken after India`s independence; “[…] guilt is a complex matter, for are we not all, each of us in some sense responsible for – do we not get the leaders we deserve?” (MC 607). Rushdie is highly critical especially of the Indians` lack of interest in public affairs, which as he claims enabled the persons in power to gain absolute power and misrule the country. The story is told retrospectively by grown-up Saleem, who writes his incredible life-story right before his death, comparing himself to Scheherazade, in order to warn his nation and prevent his people from forgetting their history, since, as he claims, the Indians “are a nation of forgetters. There are moments of terror, but they go away.”
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(MC 43). At this point the novel might be considered as autobiographical and Saleem`s warning might be taken as Rushdie`s own advice to his Indian nation. Yet being written in English the novel might be taken as a warning for all nations against forgetting their own pasts and against tyrannical despots.
3.1 Fiction and Faction
Depicting the major historical events of Indian history, Midnight`s Children is sometimes recognized as a historical novel. Yet the novel combines the features of magic realism with historical facts, and so it could be read as either fantasy or a history book. As the author himself describes it in the introductory chapter to his novel: “In the West people tended to read Midnight`s Children as a fantasy, while in India people thought of it as pretty realistic, almost a history book” (MC xv). Being a fiction, the novel cannot be seen as a standard text on history, because it is narrated from an
Indian point of view and although the author tries to remain objective, he cannot completely avoid his subjective opinions and feelings. In his novel Rushdie writes that “the reality is a question of perspective” (MC 229) and therefore in the novel Rushdie creates his own history of India. Yet on the other hand, the reader might get occasionally confused since Rushdie, admitting that everybody`s reality is different, sometimes tries to support the historical facts depicted in the novel, claiming that “reality can have metaphorical content; that does not make it less real” (MC 278).
3.1.1 Fiction
The purely fictional part of the novel is manifested through the use of magic realism, making use of magic features, supernatural skills, fantasy and unusual things. The core of the magic is set in ‘the midnight`s children’, the children who were born “during the first hour of August 15th, 1947 – between midnight and one a.m.” (MC 271). All these children were “through some freak of biology, or perhaps owing to some
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preternatural power of the moment, or just conceivably by sheer coincidence, endowed with features, talents or faculties which can only be described as miraculous” (MC 271). “The closer to midnight our birth-times were, the greater were our gifts” (MC 275). The narrator of the novel, Saleem Sinai is one of these children and being born at the stroke of midnight he was given “the greatest talent of all – the ability to look into the hearts and minds of men” (MC 277). As Saleem grows older he realizes his unusual aptitude and finally, at the age of ten, he starts to communicate with the rest of the children. There were exactly one thousand and one midnight`s children. The number of children is not accidental, but it is carefully chosen. In Indian mythology the figure one thousand and one is a “number of night, of magic, of alternative realities – a number beloved of poets and detested by politicians, for whom all alternative versions of the world are threats” (MC 300). The fact that Rushdie lets one thousand and one children to be born might suggest that he can see many opportunities and alternatives for a newly-born “infant sovereign state of India” (MC 271). On the other hand,
the number predestines the midnight’s children to destruction as this number is detested by politicians. The whole concept of midnight`s children might also be understood metaphorically. On the one hand, one thousand and one children might constitute a small number (in comparison to the whole population of India) of remarkably academically and critically gifted persons, who want to think, actively take part in the political affairs and political development of their country and who do not desire to remain quiet and follow blindly their political leaders and who are thus detested by politicians. On the other hand, this small number of midnight`s children might represent the whole population of India. Saleem establishes the Midnight`s Children Conference, a telepathic conference, where all the children contribute, among the philosophies and the aims suggested are collectivism, individualism, altruism, filial duty, capitalism, science, religion, courage,
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cowardice, declaration of women`s rights, optimism, and also fantasies of power. All these aims and philosophies might be found in the desires of the nation and therefore the children could be regarded as the representatives of a whole nation. 3.1.1.1 Double-Identity
Another significant feature in the novel is represented by the concept of doubleidentity. Although it might seem that there is no magic or supernatural skill involved, the change of identity may be seen as symbolic and thus considered a feature of magic realism, which is closely connected to post-colonial writings, as discussed above. Foe example, in the novel the double-identity is represented in nearly all important characters. Naseem Aziz – Saleem`s grandmother – is later on in the novel called Reverend Mother. Since she is unhappy in her marriage she ‘changes’ herself into an ugly, fat person whose responsibility is to guard the house and the kitchen and who gained a new ability to “enter one`s dreams” (MC 69). Saleem`s mother, Mumtaz Aziz, changes her name after her second marriage to become Amina Sinai, to become a different person. And Saleem`s sister is called Brass Monkey for her special ability to be seen and heard. For all these
characters the changes of their names and with it their closely connected identities, mean new beginnings, the start of new and better lives. Yet these changes of identity also suggest the problems with self-determination, a theme that is interwoven throughout the whole novel. The problematic self-determination also appears and reappears with Saleem Sinai. Being a Muslim, after Partition of India he has a strong identification with Pakistan but he continues to live in India. When he moves to Karachi, Pakistan, and his whole family is killed during the Indian bombing, he becomes a soldier of one of the Pakistan’s special fighting units, where he is forced to fight against India.
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The self-determination is not problematic only for the individual characters of the novel including the main hero, but also for India itself as an infant country since “even a baby is faced with the problem of defining itself” (MC 178). During only one night India changes its name, form the British Raj into India, becoming divided between both its British past and heritage and its Indian modern future. 3.1.1.2 “The Twoness of Things”
The problem of self-determination as a whole is closely connected, as Rushdie puts it, to “the unchanging twoness of things” (MC 194). The polarity of the world Rushdie explains on a traditional British game ‘snakes and ladders’: “[…] for every ladder you climb, a snake is waiting just around the corner; and for every snake, a ladder will compensate” (MC 194). This “twoness of things” is incorporated throughout the whole novel and constitutes an important issue. Since there is not only one child, Saleem, born at midnight “but two [children] were born at the stroke of midnight. Saleem and Shiva” (MC 277). Saleem was born into a middle-class, rich family, while Shiva became a child of the street, living in the worst slums. When one child was successful the other one was just going through his worst times. When Saleem, as a child, was the leader of the Midnight`s Children Conference and was ‘influencing’ the history of India and Pakistan when moving the pepper pots, Shiva was struggling with his life in the slums. But their roles are switched in adulthood. Shiva becomes a war hero, because,
being a midnight`s child he was given “the gifts of war” (MC 277), and later on he becomes the right hand of Indira Gandhi, a person who does ‘the dirty work’ for her and who imprisons all the living midnight`s children together with Saleem. So when Shiva is up, Saleem is down.
By this “twoness of things” Rushdie might suggest that there is only a thin borderline between the better and the worse principles. Even though when one is born
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rich, one can become poor very quickly. In Rushdie`s world of Midnight`s Children the two principles cannot co-exist side by side when both are involved with the same power. If one principle is winning, the other one must be losing and vice versa. This notion could be applied to the whole India, moreover, to the whole world. In Rushdie`s text, the “twoness of things” is received by Saleem as something that has been there since time immemorial and is thus something completely natural. 3.1.2 Faction
As the title suggests, this subchapter deals with the historical and political issues described in the novel. The major historical events are narrated as if they happened due to Saleem`s actions, often misfortunate and done unintentionally. Since Saleem is born on Independence Day, the historical events that took place before his birth are depicted as if they happened due to the actions of Saleem`s relatives, mostly because of his grandfather. At the very beginning of the novel Rushdie wants to enforce the notion that India`s history is very old and that India was not “‘discovered’ by Europeans” (MC 6), as Saleem`s grandfather was taught when he studied in Germany. Rushdie compares the old, traditional India, reflected in the character of old ferryman Tai, with the new, halfBritish, half-modern India, reflected in Aadam Aziz. Aadam, educated in Germany, where he got used to some European habits and ways of thinking, is a keen supporter of new technologies. Yet for old Tai, Aadam “represents Abroad; it is the alien thing, the invader, progress” (MC 19), everything that is connected with the British people and the British rule in India. Although Tai`s attitude to
progress is extremely negative, he does not hate technology and progress itself, but rather the implementation of technology in place of senses and intuition. When Aadam wants to inspect one of his patients with the stethoscope, Tai says:“’I knew it,’ […]. ‘You will use such a machine now, instead of your own big nose.’”(MC 20) By inserting this sentence into the novel, Rushdie might
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suggest that as far as the progress and innovation is important, common sense, intuition and one’s own natural disposition should not be forgotten. 3.1.2.1 Historical Events Before Saleem`s Birth
In the novel, the death of old Tai is ascribed to Aadam Aziz`s ‘fault’. The Amritsar massacre is attributed to Aadam`s misfortunate action, too, when he accidentally sneezes, when the crowed of Indians is gathered at the Jallisnwala Bagh and the British are just ready to fire their first round of bullets. It might also be seen as a kind of belittling of the whole situation, as the whole Amritsar case of 1919 is in the novel uncompromisingly criticized; in particular Dyer`s plan to shoot in the crowd. ‘It is a peaceful protest’ (MC 40), “because Gandhi has decreed that the whole of India shall, on that day, come to a halt. To mourn, in peace, the continuing presence of the British.” (MC 37). There was no intention of any riots or anything like that, since the word ‘hartal’ originally means “a day of mourning, of stillness, of silence” (MC 37). The shooting itself is depicted as something natural for the British, something that is not worth any more attention than necessary – “Brigadier Dyer`s fifty men put down their machine-guns and go away” (MC 41). On the other hand, when Aadam Aziz comes home, he describes the situation as if he was “nowhere on earth” (MC 42). Although the Amritsar massacre left its trace in Aadam Aziz`s heart, the Partition is definitely a much more painful issue, not only for Aadam Aziz, but also for Salman Rushdie, since his opinions, thoughts and criticism are largely reflected in the character of Aadam Aziz, and since the issue of the Partition is continuously reappearing. Aadam Aziz finds the idea of Partition undesirable. For him it is only a deliberate contrivance
of the Muslim Leaguers, how to establish their own country, how to gain power and how to manage to change the clock. “Here`s proof of the folly of the scheme! Those Leaguers plan to abscond with a whole thirty minutes!” (MC 102). This foolish Partition is also reflected
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in the character of Saleem Sinai, when he faces the problem of self-determination and displacement, which accompany him in his exile in Pakistan and when coming back to India. Even though Saleem feels being Indian at the beginning of the novel, at the time when he lives in Pakistan, he feels neither Indian nor Pakistani. This supports the idea that for Rushdie there are not two countries – India and Pakistan – but only one country, unpartitioned India. Furthermore, it gives evidence for the claim that Rushdie is, in his novel, creating a myth of Indian history in order to find his own identity as well as the identity of Indian people.
3.1.2.2 Sallem`s Actions and His Influence on History of India On 15th August 1947 a new nation was born; a “quite imaginary” (MC 150) nation. Rushdie describes new India as “a new myth – a collective fiction in which anything was possible, a fable rivalled only by two other fantasies: money and God” (MC 150). Here he also identifies the possible difficulties of India. Although it is depicted as a country of many possibilities, the real opportunities are strictly limited by the amount of money one has and by the religion one follows. Rushdie might have wanted to earn about the possible future problems such as with poverty and religion. Since that time all the major historical and political events are depicted as if they happened due to the course of Saleem`s unfortunate actions and vice versa. Moreover, if some absolutely crucial event for India occurs, something vital happens to Saleem, since India in “not only [his] twin-in-birth but also joined me (so to speak) at the hip, so that what happened to either of us, happened to us both” (MC 538). By “handcuffing” India to Saleem, Rushdie provides Saleem a unique possibility to change the course of Indian history, and therefore allowing him to identify himself with his country. Among those events influenced by Saleem and his family, are the death of the Prime Minister of
India, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the exile of the president of Pakistan. These two major
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events should be considered crucial for the subsequent development of both the countries. In Pakistan democracy was replaced with a despotic military regime, in India, Jawaharlal Nehru was succeeded by despotic Indira Gandhi, who declared the state of Emergency and ended the era of the midnight`s children by castrating them, i.e. making them eunuch-like, deprived of their power and rights. Rushdie depicts Indira Gandhi as a widow with hair “parted in the centre, […] snow-white on one side and blackasnight on the other, so that depending on which profile she presented, she resembled either a stoat or an ermine. Recurrence of the centre-parting in history […]” (MC 558). By the last sentence Rushdie compares Indira Gandhi to William Methwold, an Englishman from whom the Sinais buy their house in Bombay before the Independence. By such a comparison, Rushdie suggests that although India gained independence, the practices of the current leaders are the same as they were during the British rule. The era of rule of Indira Gandhi is described as followed: “While all over India policemen were arresting people, all opposition leaders […], and also schoolteachers lawyers poets newspapermen trade-unionists, […] at exactly the same moment the word Emergency was being heard for the first time.” (MC 585) The whole period of Emergency and the Civic Beautification Movement Saleem attributes to the fact that the Widow wanted to find Saleem and all the midnight’s children in order to castrate them and deprive them of their reproduction. However, Rushdie claims that “the Emergency had a black part as well as white” (MC 597). The white part is reflected in imprisoning all the living midnight`s children, bringing them thus together and enabling them to unite themselves – forming the opposition against Indira Gandhi. “Children, something is being born here, in this dark time of our captivity; let Widows do their worst; unity is invincibility! Children: we`ve won!” (MC 610) Rushdie here interweaves two important notions. The first one is the hope for the better future, the second one the fact that even the most
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elaborate despotic regime cannot avoid counter productivity – uniting the most oppressed people and enabling them to win.
3.2 Religious Issues
India is a diversified country and a home of many religions. The majority is composed of Hindus, with Muslims and Sikhs following. There are also a significant number of Christians, although statistically they constitute only about 2 per cent of the population. All these various religious faiths live together ‘in peace’, more or less, although sometimes this peace is disturbed by occasional clashes. The most problematic groups are Hindus and Muslims because they are used to fighting for the power and rule over India from time immemorial. During the time of India`s ‘golden period’ under the rule of the Mughals` emperors the Muslims were those who were in power and who ruled. When the British came to India, this Muslims` privilege turned out to be a disadvantage and the Hindus were those who were preferred by the British and who gradually became the officials in the government. The imbalance between these two major religions and a sudden change in religious preferences caused a considerable and serious friction between the dominant faiths, and finally resulted in the Partition of India into two countries, India and Pakistan.
3.2.1 Rushdie`s Religious Beliefs as Reflected in Midnight`s Children Having grown up in an Indian Muslim family, Rushdie was surrounded by religious issues throughout his childhood and therefore, the influence of religion, religious beliefs and faiths is often reflected in his works. Various religious concepts appear and reappear throughout Midnight`s Children and create an important part of the text. Since religious persuasion is a purely personal matter strongly connected with personal emotions, it is hard to keep one`s objectivity. Being a Muslim, Rushdie mostly describes Muslims as hard-working, good-minded and persistent people, who are
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frequently under-privileged and discriminated, while Hindus are very often
described as criminals who take bribes from Muslims and who try to illegally accrue most of the Muslims money. However, in some parts of the novel, Rushdie clearly states that all religious faiths are accepted in India and that he, or rather some of his characters, do not prefer any religious faiths to another one. This situation appears when Aadam Aziz, Saleems grandfather, dismisses his daughters` religion tutor because “he was teaching them to hate, […]. He tells them to hate Hindus and Buddhists and Jains and Sikhs and who knows what other vegetarians” (MC 50-1). The belief that the two dominant religions in India could live together in peace is also expressed in Aadam Aziz`s disgust of the possible Partition.
3.2.2. Muslims versus Muslims
In the novel the religious context of the Partition is examined from a different point of view than in the historical texts on India. In the historical works it is primarily a ‘Muslim – Hindu’ issue – a problem that was caused by the continuous friction between Muslims and Hindus. Yet in Rushdie`s Midnight`s Children, it is pictured primarily as a ‘Muslim – Muslim’ issue. The question of the partition is posed on two Muslim organizations, the Muslim League and the Free Islam Convocation. The Free Islam Convocation is lead by “Miam Abdullah, the Hummingbird – the founder, chairman, unifier and moving spirit of the […] Convocation” (MC 47) and it is in strong opposition to the Muslim League. Since the Free Islam Convocation is supported by Aadam Aziz and his friends, the Muslim League is in the text described as a “bunch of toadies” (MC 55), who have nothing to do with Muslims and who “go like toads to the British and form governments for them” (MC 56). Aadam Aziz strongly disagrees with the Muslim League and the Partition because there is no country in the world that could not be loved by God: “Where can we find a land that is foreign to God?” (MC 57). And
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therefore the partition is not needed since God`s love is not dependent on the country one lives in, but on the actions one takes.
The Muslim League is then depicted as an organization that was primarily dangerous for India and that the Free Islam Convocation was formed against
“the dogmatism and vested interests of the Leaguers” and, according to Rushdie, “the League, with its demand for a partitioned India, spoke on nobody`s behalf but its own” (56). But on the other hand, Rushdie tries to remain objective when claiming that the Partition was not just the fault of the ‘in-the-novel-heavily-criticized’ Muslim League and its leaders, but that it was primarily the fault of Indians themselves, who played “hit-the-spittoon, and ignored the cracks in the earth” (MC 57) and did not do anything to prevent the Muslim League from partitioning India. Rushdie here blames all Indians, and Muslims in particular, for behaving in a ‘chamcha’ way – sitting at home and paying attention to their traditions rather than going to a meeting. 3.2.3 Hindus versus Muslims
Clashes between Hindus and Muslims are a natural occurrence and appear throughout the whole novel. It is apparent that this disquiet emerges more often during the time of economic instability and political uncertainty. The first clashes appear in the novel during the time before the partition and independence, respectively; when in Agra Hindus try to ‘earn’ money from Muslim businessmen by demanding ransoms. The Hindu organization called Ravana is described as “a dastardly crew, […] a band of incendiary rogues” (MC 92) and as Rushdie indicates, it was quite a common occurrence at the time of the Partition. Then the Muslim inhabitants of India, especially those living in the north, were constantly vexed and victimized by the Hindu gang, which “posed as a fanatical anti-Muslim movement, which, in those days before the
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Partition riots, in those days when pigs` heads could be left with impunity in the courtyards of Friday mosques, was nothing unusual” (MC 92-3). 3.3 The Language
As a typical representative of the post-colonial literature, Midnight`s Children is written in English. Yet being an Indian novel, or rather, a novel by an Indian author about the Indian past, the choice of language is very unusual. One might suppose that it would be written in Hindi, Urdu or some other vernacular language of India and not in English. The fact, that
Midnight`s Children is written in English manifests that the imperialism left an inerasable trace in the Indian history, both cultural and political. In India, Standard English still functions as a medium, a language that everyone can understand, and as a language that is closely connected with power and the upper-class. Since Midnight`s Children depicts Indian political history before and after independence, the choice of English, as a wide-spread language, might suggest that the intention of the book was to be read all over the world. Yet the English used in Midnight`s Children is not standard British English. Since Salman Rushdie is not a native speaker of the English language, his usage of English is influenced by his mother tongue and as he himself writes in the introduction of his novel he had an “[…] interest in creating a literary idiolect that allowed the rhythms and thought patterns of Indian languages to blend with the idiosyncrasies of ‘Hinglish’ and ‘Bambaiyya’, the polygot street-slang of Bombay.” (xii). This special mixture of the English language and the vernacular language is a common characteristic of the post-colonial literatures written in English.
3.3.1 English versus english
In order to understand the ‘special’ English language of post-colonial literatures one must take the spread of English during the imperial period into consideration. Since
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the control over language is an important tool for the imperial power in asserting its control over the oppressed nation, on one hand the language “becomes the medium through which a hierarchical structure of power is perpetuated” (Ashcroft et al. 7), on the other hand, the use of the new language by the colonized people is not the same as that of the colonizer.
Ashcroft et al. state that it is important to distinguish “between the ‘standard’ British English inherited from the empire and the English which the language has become in the post-colonial countries” (8). When the British left and the oppressed country became independent, the ‘standard’ norm of English ceased to be required by the authorities and the local
language found its ways into the ‘standard’ form of English. Since the British Empire counted many countries, there are, naturally, many varieties of the ‘standard’ English, which Ashcroft calls “englishes”. These englishes naturally vary from each other in many ways because each of them is influenced by a different native language.
3.3.2 Vocabulary
Although Midnight`s Children is written in English, the vocabulary range varies considerably from the vocabulary range of standard British English. In his work, Rushdie uses a lot of Indian expressions from the Hindi language and other vernacular languages of India, especially in such cases where he needs to replace the English expression with the vernacular expression. This substitution occurs predominantly in two cases. Firstly, when there is no equivalent of such an expression in English or when the English equivalent would not precisely express the meaning of the word. Secondly, when there is an equivalent word in English but the usage of the vernacular word expresses the author`s close attachment to the object, place or person it describes and links the author with his mother tongue and the country of his origin. To the first group
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of words belongs, for example, the Indian word ‘baba’ that means a male child or infant and it is never used for female infants.
To conclude this subchapter, I would like to add, that since the language is continually developing, many Indian words have become entries in the dictionaries of the English language and are now part of Standard English. This came about partly because of a spread of Indian culture to the West and by the increasing popularity of Indian cuisine, in particular. Words such as tikka (“an Indian meal that consists of pieces of meat or vegetables cooked in spices” [Macmillan English Dictionary 1504]), sari (“a very long wide piece of cloth, especially silk, that women in India wrap around their bodies to make a type of long dress” [Macmillan English Dictionary 1257]) or sahib (“used in the past in India as a title of respect for a man, especially a British government official” [Macmillan English Dictionary
1252]) are nowadays known world-wide and has become a part of the English register.
3.3.3 Compound Nouns and Adjectives
Rushdie`s usage of language differs not only in the range of vocabulary but also in the over-usage of compound nouns. Although in the English language the occurrence of compound nouns is a common phenomenon and the compounds are used quite frequently in order to avoid inconsistence and ambiguity, Rushdie often uses compound nouns as a substitution for clauses. Some compounds that could be substituted by a relative clause are short, such as “a long-ago letter” (MC 471) that could be substituted as ‘a letter that came long time ago’, and are not so unusual. What is striking is the fact that they are used very often in the text and it could be said that some relative clauses are substituted by compound nouns. Yet not only are relative clauses often substituted by the compound nouns but also in other clauses the compound nouns are used instead. In a sentence “[…] the past plummeting towards me like a vulture-dropped hand to
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become what-purifies-and-sets-me-free, because[…]” (MC 476-7) the compound noun ‘what-purifies-me-sets-me-free’ forms an unusual stylistic feature. Some compound nouns are really specific and are not used in that way in Standard English and demonstrate therefore the author`s unique style of writing. For example, in the following sentence – “I continue to believe – I continue now – that what-we-have-in-common would finally have outweighed what-drove-us-apart” (415) – the compound nouns contribute to the author`s specific style, since this usage of compound nouns is extremely unusual in English. It would perhaps be illustrative to provide here some more examples of Rushdie`s compound-nouns-usage from the novel analyzed: “simultaneous-love-and-hate-of-Things in the world” (415), “mess-ofpottage-corrupted rival” (601) or “what-could-they-do?” (609). Rushdie’s distinctive style of writing is here evident. It is hard to say to which degree this style is a ‘product’ of post-colonial experience and therefore a desire for a slight difference in the colonizer`s language in
order to show that the Indian texts and the English ones are not the same although written in the ‘same’ language, or whether it is purely the author`s way of writing and playing with the language.
3.3.4 Register
The register of Midnight`s Children varies considerably throughout the novel, depending on the place where the action is just taking place. When using the direct speeches, the register is informal, especially when the action takes place in the slum and ghettoes and in other deteriorated parts of the towns. When the dialog is enacted between two adults, for example, Saleem`s mother and father, it is slightly more formal but the level of formality is not high. When Rushdie describes historical events or a place of the story, the register of language used for such descriptions is always very
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formal, using many extremely formal words, such as “give me the parchment” (MC 448) or “have a proposition of” (MC 433).
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4. Conclusion
In my thesis I focus on Rushdie`s Midnight`s Children and Indian history. I first briefly describe important events form Indian basic historical background, however, my main concentration is then the novel examined. I also point out at some aspects concerning post-colonialism, post-colonial theories and literatures. India is a country with ancient history shaped by many incidents that later proved to be crucial. Beginning with the accidental incident of the Black Hole of Calcutta, the British started to purposely conquer the Indian land. Due to the subsequent ‘westernization’ of India – bans on some religious traditions and the implementation of religiously-insensitive innovations, Indian people began to oppose the British rule, forming a strong independence movement after the First World War. Indians found the leader of the movement in the figure of Mohandas Karamchand Ghandi – a lawyer, a politician and a philosopher – who
formulated his teachings about non-violent resistance and, due to his persistence managed to lead his nation to the independence. However, the religious disputes between the Muslims and Hindus became acute, so that it became apparent that British India must be divided into two countries – Pakistan, for the Muslims, and India, for the Hindus. It must be pointed out that the Partition of British Raj was completely under the British control. The post-independent development of both the new countries differs considerably, with India being considered a success, while Pakistan a failure. Despite their different post-independent development, neither country avoided a tyrannical regime – with Pakistan ruled by military dictatorship, while India was tormented by the state of Emergency declared by its Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Yet despite its ancient history, the Indian nation is continuously confused and unsure about its own identity. By writing novels such as Rushdie`s Midnight`s Children
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Indians try to influence the course of history in order to make sense of themselves. By empowering one thousand and one children with magical skills, Rushdie allows them to influence the course of historical events and find their own significance in hugely populated country of India. By doing so, Rushdie creates his own history of India – a new myth. Moreover, he enables a certain number of people – and through them, the whole Indian nation – to hope for a better future, for a possibility that they themselves might be chosen to change the course of history. By empowering Saleem with the ability of telepathy and an extremely sensitive nose Rushdie enables his hero to influence history, and thus to create his own history of India. Yet the giant machine of History cannot be completely modified, since people are not allowed to choose their date of birth, which predestines them: “How many things people notions we bring with us into the world, how many possibilities and restrictions of possibility!” (MC 145) Every single person carries certain possibilities to leave the inedible trace in history, yet everybody is also frustrated by some restrictions. Among the possibilities
for Saleem were both the ability of telepathy and his supersensitive nose. The most significant restriction was his inability to find his own identity and self-determination. Similar possibilities and restrictions were given to India, when it gained its independence. India found an excellent leadership in the figure of Jawaharlal Nehru, but then was restricted by Indira Gandhi and her despotic rule. Rushdie also identifies religious clashes and both illiteracy and poverty as possible restrictions and constantly criticizes Prime Ministers and people in power for their lack of activity in dealing with these restrictions.
The total number of the midnight`s children, one thousand and one, has its significance, too. As a positive number in Indian mythology it suggests Rushdie`s hopes for abilities and skills of a new-born India to develop in a desirable way. However, the
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number also signifies the fact that one person can hardly move the history alone – the real force of change is interwoven in the unity of the nation. This proved to be true when Mahatma Gandhi lead his nation to the sea in his famous Salt March and that the victory of midnight`s children is seen in their unity by Rushdie. However, by enabling birth and survival to Saleem`s son, Rushdie supports the idea that there is always at least one ‘magic’ child, endowed with both possibilities and restrictions, the personality, who could make an input in history and change its course. By writing this novel and recreating history of India, Rushdie encourages his Indian nation to make its own history and find thus its own identity as well as make sense of itself. On the other hand, by inserting following statement – “to understand just one life, you have to swallow the world” (145) – Rushdie enables the whole world to make sense of itself and proposes that although his novel is written primarily about India and for India, it might be applied on the whole world. Every single nation and country are given their own possibilities and restrictions and have at least one person who could change the course of history. It is only their responsibility to create their own histories and myths and encourage their people to be seen and
heard, and to change, if necessary, the history of their country. As Rushdie points out, “[…] the nearly-thirty-one-years-old myth of freedom is no longer what it was. New myths are needed; but that`s none of my business.” (640)
In Midnight`s Children Rushdie demonstrates both the common themes and formal aspects of post-colonial literatures. His concern with the past, religious issues, doubleidentity, or his metaphoric “twoness of things” manifest the post-colonial experience of the Indian nation. There are many examples of the so-called magic realism, making full use of mingling fiction and faction. His style is unique, with specific compound nouns, celebrating an Indian “english”, which is playful, ironic, symbolic and poetic. The
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beauty of the different “english” is another message of Rushdie`s text: it gives evidence of the relationship between “the metropolitan West” and “the mysterious East” (Said xi).
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5. Works Cited
Ashcroft,Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. New York: Routledge, 1989. Keay, John. India: A History. Harper: London, 2000.
Keulks, Gavin. “Rushdie, Salman” The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Ed. David Scott Kastan. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. Oxford UP. Masaryk U. 1 June 2008 .
Lapping, Brian. End of Empire. London: Paladin, 1989.
Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners. International Student Edition. Oxford: Macmillan Publ. Ltd, 2002.
Oxford Dictionary of Islam. John L. Esposito, ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Masaryk U. 1 June 2008. .
Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. Chris Baldick. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford UP. Masaryk U. 14 June
2008. .
Read, Anthony & David Fisher. The Proudest Day; India`s Long Road to Independence. London: Pimlico, 1998.
Rushdie, Salman. Midnight`s Children. 25th Anniversary ed. London: Vintage, 2006. Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. London: Vintage,1993.

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