What are the ambiguities of Magic Realism with special reference to Salman Rushdie's novels? What is the structural design?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The sense of magical realism presented in the novel is not one that operates in a fantastic and dazzling type of manner.  Saleem's powers are unique and demonstrate a capacity for the traditional type of magic.  However, their uses are either flawed or ineffective.  Saleem, in connecting with the other children of midnight, creates the Midnight's Children Conference, hopes to create some type of unity predicated upon the special powers endowed to the children of the midnight hour.  The Conference, itself, is disbanded and undermined Shiva.  Saleem's powers are strong enough to understand the need for change, but cannot bring that change about. 

The ambiguities of his power lies in their impotence, a theme reaffirmed when magical, or any, powers cannot compel him to impregnate Parvati, and Shiva must do so.  In the final analysis, the vagueness of Saleem's powers lead him to want to create the greatest of pickles and chutneys at the factory.  He has embraced a life where the extent of his magical powers is only seen in a factory setting, and has become resigned to the fact that his magical capacity will not impact history, will not impact national consciousness.  The best it can do is impact the making of spicy pickles and chutney. 

The structural design of this magical realism starts out with a youth where Saleem is seeking to understand his sense of magic, an adolescence and post adolescence, where he hopes to bring his magic into a setting to impact positive and profound levels of institutional change, and a middle age where he firmly understands his limitations and ambiguities of his magic.  In this setting, Saleem's magic is no different than anyone else's capacity to be unique and different, as there are conditions placed on us that prevent full realization of our own magical possibilities. 

The structure of Saleem's magical capacity might be able to find some paralells with India, post Partition, where the initital brust of success and optiimism became replaced with challenges to its own sense of power (both self created and inflicted upon), and a disillusionment of the power of its own exceptional magic (Emergency period), only to be resiged to do what it can with what it can (Post Emergency economic and political growth of India.)  If one accepts this premise, than we see that Saleem's magic was truly magic, after all, as his fate parallelled the Indian nation's.

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