Journey into lightness

Midnight's Children is a loose allegory for events in India both before and, primarily, after the independence and partition of India, which took place at midnight on 15 August 1947. The protagonist and narrator of the story is Saleem Sinai, a telepath with a nasal defect, who is born at the exact moment that India becomes independent. Saleem Sinai's life then parallels the changing fortunes of the country after independence.
The technique of magical realism finds liberal expression throughout the novel and is crucial to constructing the parallel to the country's history. It has thus been compared to One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez.
The narrative framework of Midnight's Children consists of a tale - comprising his life story - which Saleem Sinai recounts orally to his wife-to-be Padma. This self-referential narrative recalls indigenous Indian culture, particularly the similarly orally recounted Arabian Nights. The events in Rushdie's text also parallel the magical nature of the narratives recounted in the Arabian Nights, or his journey in the 'basket of invisibility'
The novel is also an expression of the author's own childhood, his affection for the city of Bombay (now Mumbai) in those times, and the tumultuous variety of the Indian subcontinent. Recognised for its remarkably flexible and innovative use of the English language, with a liberal mix of native Indian languages, this novel represents a departure from conventional Indian English writing. Compressing Indian cultural history Midnight's Children chronological entwines characters from India's cultural history with characters from Western culture, and the devices that they signify - Indian culture, religion and storytelling, Western drama and cinema - are presented in Rushdie's text with postcolonial Indian history to examine both the effect of these indigenous and non-indigenous cultures on the Indian mind and in the light of Indian independence.
The foundations of religious authority are a central concern in the novel. As with Judaism and Protestant Christianity, Islam's authority resides in scripture and rests on the belief that its words come directly from God (Allah). Saleem Sinai, the novel's narrator, seems to want to appropriate some of the Islamic tradition's authority while at the same time questioning its legitimacy. Comparing himself to Muhammad, the vessel through whom the Quran is believed to have been dictated by Allah, Saleem claims to have heard "a headful of gabbling tongues", and, though he was initially perplexed and "struggled, alone, to understand what had happened." Saleem points to his (and Rushdie's) desire to unsettle some of the easy dichotomies that individual people as well as entire cultures use to make sense of themselves.


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