What use does Salman Rushdie make of the theme of "sight" in the story "Good Advice is Rarer Than Rubies?"

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

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The idea of sight is an interesting theme that comes out of the short story.  In the mere setting, there is a clouding of dust outside the consulate/ embassy, making it difficult to see.  At the same time, the amount of forgeries and individuals posing as governmental sanctioned people who can authorize passports and visas make it difficult to "see" who is legitimate and who is not.  Muhammad Ali is one of these individuals who attempt to make it difficult for the "Tuesday women" to see him for being the conman he is.  At the same time, Ali could not see how Miss Rehama was acting in a fraudulent manner, in that she did not want to go to England and rather stay at home.  He could not see that her vision was more clear than his.  The lack of clarity in sight is part of the theme of duplicity that is present in the short story.  Ali is not who he purports to be, Miss Rehana is not who she claims to be, and the sight that is present is obscured by personal agendas.  In the end, no one is able to "see" anyone for who they are, as this masquerade makes sight impossible:

No one in this story is reliable in actions or character, making how we know the truth of anything another theme. This deconstruction of a final, clear truth is an aspect of Rushdie’s postmodern view of the world. Whom can we trust? How do we know someone speaks the truth?... Muhammad Ali makes it his profession to dupe the same Tuesday women, eliciting money from them for imagined services. Miss Rehana is perhaps the least reliable of characters, for she acts one way while she thinks another, so that neither Muhammad Ali nor the audience know her intentions until the end of the story.

It is this lack of clarity that makes sight an extremely important theme in the short story.

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