Analysis of Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

rushdie

Salman Rushdie is known for his books: Midnight’s Children (winner of the Booker prize) and Satanic Verses which is banned in many countries because it blasphemes Islam.

The story begins with India attaining independence on 15th August 1945. Salim Sinai the chief protagonist comes out of his mother’s womb exactly at 12 AM when radios were proclaiming: India has made a tryst with destiny.

The story is written using the technique of Magic realism.

Salim Sinai is a special child gifted with psychic abilities. Apart from him there are various others who have the gift of clairvoyance.
I would like to proceed my analysis using: existential philosophy, psychoanalysis, postmodernism and Marxism.

View Point from Existentialism

Salim Sinai is a fictional self trying to project history and culture from a hyped individualism. The fictional self is glorification of Sartre’s being for itself. The story has abrupt time shifts which don’t connect with each other. The present in the novel is his relationship with Padma his wife. He is fond of belittling his wife by calling her the Goddess of dung. The past is a narrative about Indian attaining independence. Words become cultural monuments for shaping the narrator’s world. Reading the novel—one is forced to experience a blunt romanticism. Born in a rich aristocratic family, life is rather comfortable for Sinai. From an existential point of view it is hard to give poetic license about the narrator’s tryst with extra sensory perception. The self of the writer is skewed with myriad of thoughts.

Psychoanalysis
We find instances in the story where the protagonist suffers from the chronic aliment of the Oedipus complex. Padma his wife becomes a mother figure. History becomes a masculine camera, sporting the nuances of reality within a surreal lens. The character of the narrator is one of self contained narcissism. Does Rushdie want to escape the feeling of an average Joe? Looking at the story from an archetypal point of view we find that the actor of the story is a Scaramouch. Relationships in the novel are marked by tense irony. The motif a clown tries to synchronize history with fable in a witch’s cauldron. Interesting is the portrayal of Adam Aziz, the grandfather of Sinai who is a doctor who has come from Germany and who has roaring practice in Kashmir. He has totally imbibed the culture of the West. His marriage to Salim’s grandmother is so comic. Rushdie is a beast with vitriolic humor. There is a tendency to utter disparaging remarks about various characters. Is clairvoyance a voice of hope or chain of frustration? These are questions that can be gleaned from psychoanalysis.

Marxism
Looking at the novel from a Marxian perspective: one has to accept that the writing of the novelist is a bourgeoisie stunt, an aristocratic gimmick. The harsh reality of a newly emerged India is rather a crutch which could have deserved more attention. The settings of the novel are aristocratic and there is little mention of the proletariat. There is TAI the boat man. TAI is placed in fiction of the exotic.

Postmodernism

The flight of cultural imagery is shrouded in a mismatch of cultural signifiers. Reading the history of independence in the novel, one has to deconstruct the misrepresentation of History. The narrative is shallow and meanders with contrasting meanings. Aristocracy as a bourgeoisie narcissism has to be deconstructed with cultural perspective.

Evolution of Drama

Here in this essay, I would like to turn to the evolution of theater from Greek to postmodernism.

Greek drama revolved around kings and Queens and nobility. The roots of tragedy have their pinnacles in Greece. It is from there we have come to understand Aristotelian concept of catharsis, which means an emotional cleansing while watching tragedy. Famous is Oedipus Rex and in it we find Rex marrying his mother and murdering his father. For the Greeks, it meant a spectacle for pure entertainment. It is pertinent to ask whether Greek plays have probed the deeper questions of humanity. They do and they have done. Rich has been the culture bequeathing the props making drama an entertainment. The Greek play had belief in Gods and Goddesses and the supernatural. It was based on various festivals. The corybantic dancers danced in frenzy showing of their Epicurean credentials. The acts showed a gestation of Jungian archetypes. Great is the legacy and culture of Greece.

Next I would like to proceed to Elizabethan stage. Shakespeare was its greatest exponent and he was the master of both tragedy and comedy. Elizabethan plays also revolved around nobility, aristocracy and kings and queens. They carried on courtly intrigues and courtly love. Was it the symbolism of monarch going decadent? Let’s recall the play Julius Caesar. The murder of Julius Caesar showed the symbolism of a monarchic war. Brutus is a specimen of a valiant anti-hero. The murder is justified on grounds of insolvency of the regime of Caesar. Mark Antony is the hero of the play and he silences all of his detractors by his remarkable, eloquent speech. The Tempest shows the development of an artist—the kunstlerroman. The tempest also highlights the dawn of desire for colonialism.

Here I would like to trace the development of theater to modern and postmodernism. There are various trends like existentialism and Marxism. I would like to take an example from Death of Salesman by Arthur Miller. The death of Salesman is a strident criticism on the pitfalls of growing capitalism Willy is a classic example of itinerant salesman caught up with the vision of the great American Dream. Willy is an archetype of the fool, a delusional character. His wife Linda is more practical and efficient and she is an example of a typical American Middle Class Woman. She is an archetype of a mother Goddess. The dream of Bill to capitalize on the Great American dreams comes to rotten eggs and he commits suicide in the end. From and Marxian point of view, life of man in the theater of the absurd is one of irony, pessimism and angst. The working classes have no place in society. They are belittled and down-graded. Psychoanalytically speaking Bill’s ego is a wounded one with the horrors and vanity of pursuing an idol dream. We can further use Lacan’s Mirror Stage and when using it we look at a character is demented and living in a fictional world.

Contextualizing Irony

In this essay, I would like to contextualize irony into various themes.
First of all I would like to trace the origins and etymology of irony. Irony originated in the Greek Language from Eiron the Greek underdog who outwitted his strong opponent. From Greek Irony came into Latin Ironia meaning dissimulation or feigned ignorance. From Latin irony became adapted in the English Language in the 16th century.

What are the types of irony? The types of irony are verbal irony (what is different from what is being said). An example is: how clean is the room meaning the room is very dirty. Then there comes dramatic irony, meaning, the audience knows more than the actors. For example, in the play Oedipus Rex, Rex does not know that he has married his mother and killed his father. Then again comes cosmic irony where Gods and Goddesses play with the fate of the humans in an undermining way. Then comes historical irony where the outcome is different from expectations. For example no one anticipated that the rise of Hitler would lead to the persecution of Jews. Then there is Socratic irony or pretended irony and it consists of posing rhetorical questions. Examples are: what is goodness? What is virtue? What is the soul and so on?

Now I would like to contextualize irony and examine it through the lens of literature, culture and philosophy.

What is irony’s place in Literature? Irony’s place in literature is highly possible as a conjecture. The place of irony in literature has been the decadence of religion and the growth of science and technology. Greek religion and culture portrayed Gods and Goddesses as being human and subject to fate and being far from perfect. It’s these legends through which the literature of irony has got root. Irony also grew up with existential philosophy which examines the quest for seeking the problems of the mind and body. The philosophy of nihilism was entirely an incubation of irony. Thus as Camus says we have to authenticate our existence to live a free life. What is the postmodern concept of irony? In postmodernism irony is a playfield of emotions. Woe, anxiety, angst, pessimism all are ingredients of human personality. Irony becomes an architect for the disintegration of personality.

What is irony’s place in culture? Irony occupies a primordial space in the literature of culture. Irony haunts the persona as being repeatedly human. The development of science and technology has changed the concept of human worth and dignity. The joy of life— the romanticization of life become imprisoned in vestiges of a culture wanting to prey on humans. Irony is marked by the troubled other, the troubled self, phobia and decadence. Irony began to question what is valued in culture.

What is irony’s worth in Philosophy? Irony became a weighing balance to weigh the worth of existence and essence. The questions of being and becoming became conjectural possibilities. Ambitious and lofty is irony’s plank on the knowledge of philosophy.

Tradition and Change in Literature

Literature existed somewhere in the beginning of civilization. The oldest known texts are the Vedas known as hymns for God. The consisted of reciting mantras and offering fire sacrifice to appease the Gods. Most of these texts contain poetic language. One of the texts deals with sorcery and black magic and is called the Atharva Veda. The texts perpetrated the heinous caste system according to which Brahmans were considered to be superior to all other castes. The Vedas assumed that Gods have to be placated to makes humans live-able on earth.

There were also other texts from India mainly the Ramayana and the Mahabartha: the twin epics which consist of fables relating to war between the forces of good and evil, where the forces of good triumph. Then there is also the Bhagvat Geeta, a text of moral scripture. The text speaks about man’s origin and man’s purpose in life. The texts emulate man to tide over the cycle of birth and rebirth and merge oneself to the eternal Brahman (God).

Then the most important text of literature, an all encompassing one is the sacred one, the Bible. The Bible is historical, literary, poetic and scriptural and also eschatological. Historically it represents the struggle of the Jews between exodus and Diaspora. The stories of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph are noteworthy. The Jews are a nation which struggled a lot for existence and they needed supernatural force for appeasement and comfort. There are many books in the Bible which are poetic and literary. The Song of Songs celebrates the love between the husband and wife. The proverbs are instructional literature and form a collection of wisdom books. The Gospels are richly clad the robe of man’s relationship with God and the perfect way to be happy in Godliness and happiness. The Sermon on the Mount is a work of poetic prose. Notable is the verse: Blessed are the Meek: for they will inherit the earth. The proverbs are a text of scriptural wisdom and address the issue of how to lead a good life. Christian eschatology relates to death and final judgment and forms a part of apocalyptic literature.

Next I would like to comment on the Elizabethan school of literature of which Shakespeare is a giant. Most of Shakespearian dramas are written about courtly life, intrigues, political turmoil, and the establishment of justice on the earth. The dramas provoke the human mind and to engage the same in a state of catharsis.

The medieval period is also significant in the work of Cervantes: Don Quixote. Don Quixote was in medieval times a lampoon on courtly traditions. How far is her relevant now? In the period of postmodernism, he rated as tragic hero who made the soul of life a rich trigger of passion

Next comes the tradition of the Realist Novel. Tolstoy and Dostoevsky are its finest exponents. Man began to be portrayed with the essence of humanism. The essence of the soul was to be not perfection but being fallible. The realist tradition paid a rich homage to the physical surroundings. The characters were put in the furnace of being smelted with a soul.

Next type of fiction that emerged was the psychological novel. This type of fiction was influenced with the psychology of Freud and Jung. The minds became an array of Jungian archetypes. The novelist experimented with the Freudian Oedipus complex and the Electra complex. The vices and virtuosity were balanced on balancing pan.

The novel which emerged during the war period was the surrealist novel. A surrealist novel took shape as a rebellion from established forms of fiction writing. Surrealism is juxtaposition between fantasy and reality. Art became escapism and forged identities which rebel with human consciousness.

The contemporary novel is based on a philosophy of Magic Realism where fictional elements are real and absurdly phantasmagorical. The postmodern novel is also characteristic of extreme irony, a manifestation of consciousness as streams of consciousness, the unreliable narrator, lampooning and pastiche. There is a tendency to paint words and plentiful play with figures of speech.

Epistemic Fusion

Epistemic Fusion gave birth out of my own thinking and my interactions with 8th 9th and 10th graders. Their science and social science textbooks depict an onslaught of a mechanistic, scientific and rationalistic worldview. All these world views are presented as half baked formulas. I wondered how to maneuver and not ruffle the feathers of their already established Theo-centric worldview. I became a tight-rope-walker not disturbing their water of faith and let them adjust to both the worldviews. This I call as Epistemic Fusion a term I got from Foucault’s epistemic rupture.

Forms of Poetry

In this essay, I would like to focus on the various forms of poetry and not the types about which there is plenty of narratives.

The forms of poetry are nature poems, sentimental poems and cathartic poems.
What are nature poems? Poems describing the soul of nature are nature poems. The emotion of the poet penetrates into the inanimate world and re-echoes nature as a personification. Visual imagery of nature is transmuted as an echo of the poet’s soul. Objects are rendered with beatific nuances. Here are some examples. Stones breathe with a soul. The brook murmurs with passion. Flowers blossom in the nectar of verse. Mountains echo a music in pulchritude. Rivers wander into erotic depths. The sky resonates as a twinkling ornament. Butterflies dance as a musical symphony. Thunder roars with rage. Waves frolic in mirth. Oceans shudder in orgasmic ecstasy. The flower that blossomed is a delicate heart. Lightning streaks pink with desire. Ecstasy you are a gorgeous fruit. Wind has the soul of art. Mist is a mystic’s beard. Birds are gay when they are dancing with nature’s tunes. Trees radiate sparkling voices in splendor. Radiance you are a twinkling eye of the night. Green trees are a banquet of nature. Birds sing in good cheer. Honey is the nectar of music. The chorus of rain is heavenly music.

The next classes of poems are sentimental poems. They are resonances of the soul. They speak with beatitudes of the heart. Sentiments can be happy or sad. The wellness of my soul is like the waves the heart. She has a sculpture of adorable music. Soul bursts with joy. Her body is a fountain of music. I adorn her body with a fountain of poems. Desire is a gladiator of the body. Poems are spoken with love. It is angst that plagues the heart. Worms have eaten my body up. I am contaminated with poison of hate. Misery weaves an ornament of poison around me. Profligacy falls on me as a dirty object. Let the dead sleep serene. Death is a bitter pill to taste. Dawn is rising in my sentiment of faith. Hope, you are a rock that stands firm. My heart is a shady tree. Leaves, you are clothes of the body. The body is a fountain of joy. God gives pardon the humble soul. Please cling on to the harvest of achievement. Loose not hope as it comes to you like a running brook. Soul is thrilled with cosmic wonder. Pain, you are an enemy cast into hell. Angst, you are a diabolic fiend. Rage, plunder not the mind.

The Third Class of Poems are cathartic poems. They can be visceral or cerebral or both. Some examples are given here. Reading the Sermon on the Mount is a beatific experience. Watching Macbeth cleanses the soul. The mirror that lies in the heart is one of stained glass. Feelings rebound with hope. Faith is a sun that never sets. The mind thinks like a sword. I want to let my heart speak true words of hope. My heart is a mystic wandering in the ocean of faith. Cruel words are opium for the soul. I have found a ray of hope in God Christ. Passion should not abide in adultery and fornication. Satan is a thief of the heart. Envy you are a poisonous fang. I have a mind that does not fear death. God—Jesus, I am your adored devotee. Unleash your feelings with gusto. I would like to live an art of poetry. God will eradicate from my mind, ill will and sloth. God make me temperate in my desires.

Post Post Modern Ontology

I have created a new branch of knowledge called Value epistemology. Value epistemology has its mirroring in an ontology (Being) that is constructive. There are two types of ontology: one being constructive ontology and the other being destructive ontology.

Camus and Sartre are philosophers who have espoused a philosophy of ontological destruction. For them life is chaotic and absurd and having no meaning. They also celebrate a being going into a fallen pit of anarchy. Let’s take Camus Myth of the Sisyphus. In it a man is condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder all the way uphill only to find that it rolls down. The man is forced to repeat this meaningless chore again and again. I would like to ask Camus: is life absurd? Is it chaotic! Camus’ philosophy is an incoherent one. If we follow Camus philosophy we won’t be able to live a life meaningfully. Aren’t we living in a society where we celebrate the meaning of life? We are not beings living in isolation. We are living in a community of shared meanings— or should be live as egotistic individuals. Is life marked the absence of reason and passion? We are beings living in three states—Catharsis, Angst and Ecstasy. Meaning of life is existentially realized.

What does Sartre have to say of Ontological Existentialism? Sartre’s Philosophy also celebrates the meaning of the absurd. Life for him is coherent mass of nothingness. We navigate our life by negating the meaning of existence. Is life chaotic and absurd? Is the choice we make to free ourselves meaningless one? Sartre goes on to say that: we are condemned to be free. How can we say that freedom is our condemnation? Was Sartre a psychological victim of World War II? Why is there so much negative theology in ontological philosophy?

I have read and reread existential Philosophers like Camus and Sartre and I have developed a new branch of existential ontology called constructive ontology. Constructive Ontology creates a new meaning that life is creative and having a purpose. We have to live a life in Valueblelization (from Value and Realization). Valueblelization means a creative living with celebration of sharing meanings in empathic harmony. For Valueblelization to occur an individual is a purposeist from (Purpose and ist). We have to authenticate ourselves in a democratic empathy of sharing meanings.
Summarizing I can say that the Philosophy of Camus and Sartre is destructive and rereading them I have made ontology a constructive one.