The Characters (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Saleem Sinai, like author Salman Rushdie, is a Muslim Indian born in Bombay in 1947. As guilt-ridden protagonist and not particularly reliable narrator, he is the novel’s most fully realized character. In addition to his birth heritage of an enormous, blocked-up nose and map-stained, bulbous-templed moon face, his bandy-legged body bears witness to his stormy life: partly bald, deafened in one ear, a mutilated finger, and castrated. Most of all, he is the intelligence through which India’s cultural and political history is transmuted into human history. All is stamped by Saleem’s eccentric personality.
Saleem is larger than life, as are other characters who display a literally mythic aspect. The ancient boatman, Tai, sets family history in motion by ferrying the narrator’s ostensible grandfather, Dr. Aziz, to his first patient, Naseem, whom he marries to found the clan. The loquacious, cantankerous Tai claims to have witnessed the birth of the mountains, the armies of Alexander the Great, and an aged wandering Christ (Isa). It is he who first sounds the motif of the Aziz family nose as the point where the outside world meets the world inside. It is Tai who teaches the future doctor, Aadam Aziz, to see the fine cracks in the ice beneath the lake’s surface, cracks which come to symbolize the fatal flaws in India’s fate, in Saleem’s family, and in Saleem himself. Profane, drunken, filthy, Tai is the mythic demiurge who launches the story....
(The entire section is 447 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Saleem Sinai, the narrator, nicknamed Snotnose, Sniffer, Stainface, and Baldy, a thirty-year-old Muslim Indian. He was born at midnight on India’s independence day, August 15, 1947. Saleem sees his personal history and the history of the other thousand children born in the first hour of independence as intimately connected to the future of all of India. He is the apparent son of a wealthy Muslim merchant in Bombay, but it was later discovered that he was switched at birth with Shiva, another of midnight’s children. Saleem believes that by using the power of his enormous but sensitive nose, he will become the leader of the magically talented midnight’s children, who can change the world. After going through many trying and fantastic experiences, which occasion the deaths of most of his family and contemporaries, Saleem composes his memoirs in anticipation of his own end.
Shiva, Saleem’s rival and the other infant exchanged at birth, named after the Hindu god of procreation and destruction. Also one of midnight’s children, Shiva personifies power and violence. His knees are his magical characteristic, knees that can squeeze the life out of any person. After Saleem discovers his own background, he fears that Shiva will discover his and attempt to replace Saleem and punish him for the deception. Shiva, an organizer of a youthful street gang in Bombay when young, joins the military and succeeds...
(The entire section is 834 words.)
Midnight's Children's narrator-protagonist Saleem Sinai leads a cast of characters who are among the most quirky and unforgettable created by a novelist in recent times. Saleem's most prominent physical characteristic is his ugly, oversized nose. He is gifted with telepathic powers but loses them when he undergoes a sinus operation. However, the operation results in heightening his olfactory abilities, which leads to his employment as a tracker. But somehow things are always happening to Saleem, and his physical and social condition steadily deteriorates. In the course of the novel, he loses a tuft of hair, a part of his finger, and his sexual potency. His veracity as a narrator is suspect because his memory is fallible and his vision, especially toward the end, is apt to become fragmented. Moody, apologetic, and solemn at times, he can also be cynical and witty.
Saleem's family is also eccentric and memorable. His grandfather, Aadam Aziz, for instance, courts Saleem's future grandmother Naseem through a perforated sheet. Saleem's mother trains herself to love her husband part by part. His uncle, Hanif, devotes his life to making the perfect documentary film and is obsessed by the notion that he should play rummy until he completes a thirteen-card heart sequence. Saleem's sister, known as the Brass Monkey, is another fantastic creation whose favorite activity is to set fire to the family's shoes.
Saleem himself is only one of the...
(The entire section is 496 words.)
The founder of the Free Islam Convocation, Mian Abdullah is assassinated by government agents in Agra in 1942.
Aadam Aziz is Saleem's grandfather. The story starts by telling how, as a young doctor, Aadam Aziz met Saleem's grandmother. He lives an unhappy life with her. He is briefly involved in politics in Amritstar in 1919, helping people who are being suppressed by British troops and nearly being shot for it, and again in Agra in 1942, when he is friends with the Rani of Cooch Naheen, who is involved in subversive politics. Aadam dies in 1964 after returning to Kashmir to find a religious icon, a strand of the Prophet Mohammed's hair.
Hanif Aziz, one of Saleem's uncles, becomes a celebrated film director and marries Pia, a famous actress. While Saleem is living with them, he sends an anonymous letter that gets their financier, Homi Catrack, shot by a jealous husband; deprived of income, Hanif commits suicide.
See Amina Sinai
Mustapha Aziz is one of Saleem's uncles, a brother of his mother. After most of the family members have been killed when India bombs Pakistan, Saleem goes to Mustapha's house and lives there for forty days of mourning, even though his uncle and his aunt want him to leave.
(The entire section is 2299 words.)