Professor Renish G.Abraham
Indian Writing in English
27 March 2016
The Nation and the Self in Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
One of the premier amalgamations of historic accounts and literature, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, falls under the genre of new historicism, a term coined by Harvard English Professor Stephen Greenblatt to describe the like. Published in 1981, the novel gained positive critical acclamation across the globe. Rushdie, British-Indian novelist born in 1947, places his book within the socio-political frame of India in the 20th century, its nationwide social unrest forming the background and setting.
Midnight’s Children takes on the many phases India as a nation goes through, from its pre-independent struggles to the consolidation of India and Pakistan as separate countries and postcolonial struggles and wars. This historical narration occurs through the technique of magical realism, a fusion of fantasy and reality, wherein it also marks the major historical events in the history of India. The country’s identification with the self, resonance of tumult within their spaces and embodiment of the nation in the self remains central to the novel, which I aim to establish.
Saleem Sinai, the protagonist of the novel, is born precisely at the moment of India’s birth, the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, the time when India as a nation is released from colonial shackles as an independent country, and after much prophecies made around his birth, he enters the world with certain gifts, marking him, amongst 1,001 children, as a midnight’s child. This new generation of children, each with a special gift signifies the coming indian citizen with his or her own individuality. Written in the form of an autobiographical narration, Saleem’s audience comprises of his fiancée Padma and son Aadam. Starting from two generations prior, he details his family history with its trials and tribulations, gruesome realities that...