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What role does religious imagery play
in the novel?
India, given its long and complicated history,
has been influenced by almost every major religion, from Buddhism
and Islam to Catholicism and Hinduism. Throughout the novel, Rushdie
incorporates elements from each religion, often borrowing images
and names from specific religious narratives. His characters themselves
represent a wide range of religious faiths. Saleem grows up in a
Muslim family, while Shiva is Hindu. Saleem’s ayah, Mary, is a devout
Catholic. In addition to religious allusions, Saleem frequently
compares himself and his narrative to religious texts. At times,
he compares himself to Mohammed, Moses, Ganesh, and the Buddha.
His magical birth recalls the prophesized birth of Jesus Christ,
and two of his parental figures, Mary Pereira and Joseph D’Costa,
share names with Jesus’ parents. Through his frequent religious
comparisons, Saleem makes an argument on behalf of his story. He
is asking the reader to have faith in his version of history, despite
its flaws, shortcomings, and inaccuracies.
In addition to exalting his narrative, Saleem’s frequent
references to religious imagery also become an argument for religious
tolerance and acceptance. There are a number of religions in India,
none better or worse than any other. By making every religion a
part of his narrative, Rushdie declares that India, like Saleem,
is a composite of all these faiths. Each one has played a distinct
role in shaping the country, just as each has shaped Saleem. They
are intertwined and inextricable from one another.
What is the significance of Saleem’s
adoption of Parvati-the-witch’s son?
Aadam Sinai will be raised by someone who
is not his biological father, just as Saleem was. Despite the absence
of a biological connection, links remain between past and present.
Saleem has the nose and eyes of his grandfather, Aadam Aziz, and
Saleem’s son, with his enormous ears, will bear the name of his
great-grandfather. History will come full circle, and the family
legacy and name will continue into the next generation.
After revealing the truth of his birth, Saleem says he
remained his parent’s son, and nothing could change that. Legitimacy,
in other words, is not a matter of biological fact, but of belief.
Saleem, despite the missing biological connection, could not be
any more, or less, his parents’ son. Aadam Aziz is his grandfather,
and that is where his story begins, because that is the history
he has inherited. The same will of course be true for his son. Aadam
Sinai, like Saleem before him, will inherit a past and a name that
will belong to him because time and history have sanctified it.
Truth, like the family itself, is created. Each is determined as
much by faith as by fact.
In addition, the tension between knees and nose, destruction
and creation, is brought to a symbolic conclusion by Saleem’s decision
to raise the son of his enemy. Saleem’s adoption of Shiva’s son
is an act of unity and love, one that has the ability to unmake
all of the damage of the past and create a new future. Aadam isn’t
blessed with enormous knees or an enormous nose, but something utterly
new, ears, thereby further signaling the conclusion of the rivalry
and tension between knees and nose.
How does Rushdie’s narrative style
reflect the novel’s intentions?
Rushdie employs a number of different literary
techniques and styles in the telling of Saleem’s story. The novel
is at once funny, dark, ironic, allegorical, and historical. The
language ranges from colloquial slang to the eloquently lyrical.
Sentences stretch for over a page, while one word after another
is linked by a hyphen. Saleem even employs a whole new set of literary
terms that he has invented to help explain his novel. He stretches
and breaks grammatical rules in the creation of a new type of sentence.
In addition, there is an obvious relationship between Rushdie’s
prose and the cinema, an important part of Bombay culture. Saleem
often describes his life in cinematic terms, and on more than one
occasion, his perspective mirrors that of a camera hovering above
By employing so many different techniques and style, Rushdie attempts
to write a novel as large and grand as its subject matter, India.
The old literary techniques and styles are insufficient and incapable
of capturing the newly independent country with its massive population,
enormous landscape, multiple religions and various languages, not
to mention a history that stretches back to the very dawn of civilization.
It is also only fitting that a postcolonial novel written in English
attempts to forge a new literary tradition and voice that is uniquely
Indian, and that in its very character, espouses the plurality of
voices that make up the country.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Midnight’s Children!