Summary (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)
Midnight’s Children is Saleem’s memoir, written during his thirtieth year. The shattered, impotent, prematurely aged resident manager of a Bombay pickling factory, he writes with his plump, illiterate mistress Padma as his only audience. Born precisely at midnight on August 15,1947, the moment of the creation of the independent countries of India and Pakistan, Saleem is dubbed “The Child of Midnight” by an exuberant press. His fortunes and those of one thousand other midnight children are mystically linked with the fate of India during the following thirty years. Saleem is a strange child: His huge, perpetually snotty nose resembles the Indian subcontinent, while his birthmark-stained ear and opposite cheek suggest East and West Pakistan. His complex family history also mirrors the troubled history of the area. Early in the century, the family patriarch, Dr. Aziz, who hails from Muslim Kashmir, the disputed region between predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan, moves to India, where his granddaughter marries a well-to-do Muhammadan businessman, Ahmed Sinai. Saleem’s birth in Bombay is preceded by an unintelligible prophecy:
There will be a son . . . who will never be older than his motherland—neither older nor younger.... There will be two heads—but you shall see only one—there will be knees and a nose, a nose and knees.... Newspaper praises him, two mothers raise him! . . ....
(The entire section is 865 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In the early spring of 1915 in Kashmir, Dr. Aadam Aziz meets his future wife, Naseem, through a perforated sheet. After their marriage in 1919, they travel to Amritsar just in time to witness Mahatma Gandhi’s hartal on April 7 and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13. They then move to Agra, where they have five children: Alia, Mumtaz, Hanif, Mustapha, and Emerald. In 1942, the second annual assembly of the Free Islam Convocation led by Mian Abdullah (the Hummingbird) is held in Agra; Mian Abdullah is assassinated. His secretary, Nadir Khan, flees and hides in the Aziz household. In 1943, Nadir Khan becomes Mumtaz’s first husband. In 1945, Major Zulfikar (who subsequently marries Mumtaz’s youngest sister, Emerald) attempts to arrest Nadir Khan. Before fleeing, Nadir Khan divorces Mumtaz, allowing her to marry Ahmed Sinai the following year. She changes her name to Amina Sinai. The Sinais move to Delhi, where Amina receives a prophecy about Saleem, and then to Bombay (Mumbai) in 1947, where they purchase a piece of William Methwold’s estate. The estate is handed over to them exactly at midnight on August 15—the date of India’s independence from the British. They live there with the Catracks, Ibrahims, Dubashes, Dr. Narlikar (a gynecologist who delivers Saleem), and the Sabarmatis.
Also at the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, two children are born, one to a poor couple, Wee Willie Winkie and Vanita, and the other to Ahmed and Amina...
(The entire section is 1289 words.)
Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
The central conceit of Midnight’s Children is that 1,001 children were born during the first hour of India’s independence, that all of them were born with magical powers, and that the extent of the powers that they were given decreased as the hour unfolded. Two boys were born at the exact stroke of midnight, and they had the greatest powers of all. One of them, Saleem, is the novel’s narrator; the other, Shiva, is his alter ego and nemesis. Saleem is the illegitimate child of a poor family; Shiva, the legitimate son of the wealthy Sinai family. Secretly switched at birth by a nursemaid in love with a man who opposed the caste system, they grow up with each other’s names, living each other’s lives.
“I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies indissolubly chained to those of my country,” Saleem says at the beginning of his tale. A self-consciously postmodern Scheherazade, Saleem relates the story of his ancestors and his life to his housekeeper, Patma, over thirty-one Indian nights. In the process, he shares his version of sixty-four years of Indian history: the years under the British, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, the religious and language riots following partition, the conflict between secular nationalism and religious fundamentalism, the wars between India and Pakistan, the birth of Bangladesh, the rise and fall of Sanjay Gandhi, and Indira Gandhi’s “emergency.” All these events and more tumble onto the...
(The entire section is 551 words.)
Midnight's Children is the first-person narrative of Saleem Sinai, an obscure thirty-year-old pickle factory worker who writes the fantastic story of his life each night, reading it aloud each night and having it commented on by a doting woman named Padma. He starts his story by describing how his grandfather came to the Kashmir region of India in 1915 after receiving his medical degree from Oxford and how he was approached by a wealthy landowner to examine his daughter. He was not allowed to look at her, though, and during each examination for months could only view her through a hole in a sheet that was held up by attendants. Aadam Aziz, Saleem's grandfather, fell in love with his grandmother, Naseem Ghani, by viewing her in parts.
After their marriage, the couple is in Amritsar on April 13, 1919, when British troops massacre hundreds of Indian nationalists. Doctor Aziz avoids being killed in a confrontation when, sneezing, he bends over as the troops fire.
The narrative jumps to 1942, when Aadam and Naseem have grown children, three girls and two boys, and live in Agra. Aadam becomes optimistic about India's coming freedom in advance of the arrival of Mian Abdullah, a social activist known as the Hummingbird. The poet Nadir Khan, dating Aziz's daughter Emerald, is one of the Humming-bird's confidantes: when Abdullah is assassinated, Khan comes to the Aziz house and is hidden in the basement for...
(The entire section is 1265 words.)