In what ways can Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' be called a 'novel of partition'?

Term Paper, 2003

9 Pages, Grade: 66%



I. Introduction

II. Main Part

III. Resumé

IV. Bibliography

I. Introduction

In my essay I will discuss Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children,[1] which was first published in 1981. As the essay question, I have chosen question number six:

In what ways can Midnight’s Children be described as a ‘novel of partition’?66%

I will not quite deal with the novel just under this focus, as the question was probably intended to be, but I will also discuss the book under the aspect of East and West, Orient and Occident ( if such separations are possible is certainly another question), and maybe make some references to Rushdie’s more recent novels the ground beneath her feet and Fury.

Midnight’s Children tells the life story of two children who are born exactly at the stroke of midnight on August 15th 1947, the day India and Pakistan achieved their independence from Great Britain, in a Hospital in Bombay. They are exchanged at birth, and so the narrator, Saleem Sinai, grows up in a well-to-do Muslim family, while his later rival, Shiva, has to live in a low-caste Hindu environment. Shiva is not even raised by Saleem’s biological father, since his wife, who dies right away, has been unfaithful to her husband with a departing English colonist. Rushdie intermingles the life and family story of Saleem, who tells it, orally and in his probably dying days, to a young woman named Padma, with the history of the Indian subcontinent in his 30 years of life. Together with India, 1001 children

( see the reference to Princess Scheherezade and the Oriental, Arabian Stories of 1001 Nights) are born in the hour of midnight, who all develop special gifts, one can travel through time, the over can change sexes and Saleem becomes capable of telepathy, which makes him an omniscient narrator and, with Shiva closest to midnight and so most powerful, the possible head over the “midnight parliament”, in which he could gather all the Midnight’s Children to save the nation, but the project is not undertaken, because it would reveal Shiva, now a brutal killer and India’s greatest war hero, the truth about his parents.

In this summary of the plot, which is not totally correct, I think, I have already done a little bit of interpretation, but now I will devote myself fully to the discussion of the essay question and the differences between East and West, as presented by Rushdie, and maybe point to a few developments he seems to have made in his recent novels.

II. Main Part

Rushdie often, in Midnight’s Children as in other works, intermingles reality and fiction, history and stories, life and narration, so it certainly is not a coincidence, unintentional, that Saleem is born the same year as the author, 1947, and has an atheist grandfather who converted to Islam for a bit obscure reasons, which made Rushdie’s and Saleem’s family Muslims, without really believing in it and detesting its purity, and in both cases, reality and fiction, causing serious problems, even the famous fatwa for Salman Rushdie, the death penalty called out by the Iran Ayatollah Khomeini for his novel The Satanic Verses. Discussing a Rushdie novel also means discussing the life and the Gesamtkunstwerk that is Salman Rushdie. In Midnight’s Children, although, India, not Salman Rushdie, is the star, it is the history, told with creative, fictional freedom, of modern India, the independent nation.


August 15th 1947 is not only the birth of India and the midnight’s children, it is also the date of the partition from Great Britain and the official partition of the Indian subcontinent, which was, at least as I read, brought about already on August 14th 1947, because Pakistan, which seemed to develop right from the beginning a more aggressive, paranoid, unasian mentality, especially in Rushdie’s eyes, announced itself as an independent, Muslim nation one day before Hindu India. India had to follow.

Benjamin Graves[2] sees various rebirths and double parentages in the novel. Saleem’s complicated family history is also an allegory for India’s complicated, interfused, ungraspable, irrational and magical culture. Saleem has different parents, meaning he is not only raised by Shiva’s biological parents, Amina and Ahmed Sinai, but also by his uncle Hanif and wife Pia Aziz, childless and involved in Bollywood, the Indian film industry, and later on by the Pakistan uncle Puffs and his family. he has different rebirths as well and is “variously called Snotnose, Stainface, Baldy, Sniffer, Buddha and even Piece-of-the-Moon”.[3] Graves points out to other renamings:


[1] Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children, Vintage London: 1995.

[2] Benjamin Graves, “Born Again!”-- Double Parentage in Midnight’s Children, in: /pakistan/literature/rushdie .

[3] Rushdie, p.9 .

Excerpt out of 9 pages


In what ways can Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' be called a 'novel of partition'?
University of Sussex  (University of Sussex - Humanities)
Postcolonial Perspectives
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Die Dozentin schrieb "it is a very good essay". 66% englische Benotung ca. 2
Salman, Rushdie, Midnight, Children, Postcolonial, Perspectives, Modern, Roman, Englisch
Quote paper
Martin Lieb (Author), 2003, In what ways can Salman Rushdie's 'Midnight's Children' be called a 'novel of partition'?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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