Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Gibreel Farishta (GEE-bree-EHL fah-REESH-tah), a forty-year-old actor, formerly named Ismail Najruddin. Poor and orphaned, Farishta escapes his poverty and becomes India’s most significant film star. When an Air India jumbo jet is sabotaged over the English Channel by Sikh terrorists, Farishta is one of two survivors. Rescued from the sea, he dresses in the clothes of his host, Rosa Diamond’s late husband. The authorities permit him to go free. He falls into an affair with Alleluia Cone (née Cohen), who scaled Mount Everest and whom he had met several months previously following a near-fatal illness that preceded his mysterious disappearance from Bombay. Finally, Farishta’s fortunes suffer a reversal. His films fail to attract audiences. He shoots his well-meaning film producer, Whisky Sisodia, and throws Alleluia off the roof of a high-rise building, then ends his own life.
Saladin Chamcha (sah-lah-DEEN CHAM-chah), an actor, master mimic, and costar of a popular English television series. Estranged son of a prominent Anglophile Bombay businessman, Chamcha (formerly Salahuddin Chamchawala) is one of two survivors of an Air India jumbo jet that is destroyed by Sikh terrorists over the English Channel. Pulled from the sea by racist...
(The entire section is 508 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of The Satanic Verses Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
In The Satanic Verses Rushdie provides a diverse and distinctive set of characters, some taken from contemporary life and some based on people mentioned in Muslim religious history. The most memorable is Saladin Chamcha, a character who is to some extent Rushdie's self-portrait. In his progress from Anglophilia to a renewed understanding of his Indian roots, in his journey from alienation to love, Saladin goes through the gamut of human emotions. Gibreel Farishta, a composite of two real-life Indian actors, is also a complex character, angelic on the outside, treacherous and hateful within. He is a remarkable study of a man in the process of disintegration, a star who has become so possessed by the semidivine status attributed to him by his fans that he comes to believe he has angelic powers.
Among the minor characters, the most fascinating are the hate-filled Imam and the almost ethereal Ayesha. Rushdie is also convincing in his portrait of Indian women, such as Saladin's girl friend, Zeeny Vakil, who urges him to make a mature acquaintance with his country, or the tough-minded and uninhibited Sufiyan sisters. However, Rushdie's attempt at portraying English women such as Pamela Lovelace or Alleluia Cone seem contrived and uninspired.
Rushdie's historical characters are skillfully drawn. Salman the scribe's cynicism about the revealed world is like (Salman) Rushdie's own doubts about the authority of sacred texts. Abu Simbel, the...
(The entire section is 334 words.)
List of Characters
Mirza Saeed Akhtar
A zamindar, or land-owner, Mirza Saeed is the descendent of an ancient family who desperately attempts to convince his beloved wife and the other villagers to turn back from her pilgrimage with Ayesha. He feels great lust as well as hate for Ayesha.
Mishal Qureishi Akhtar
Mirza Saeed’s wife, Mishal is terminally ill with cancer and convinced that Ayesha is a holy prophet.
Ayesha is the name of four characters. The first mentioned is the empress whom the Imam forces Gibreel to help him destroy in Gibreel’s dream. The second is the butterfly-eating would-be prophet from another of Gibreel’s dreams. This Ayesha is characterized by her great beauty and the complete and uncompromising certainty of her visions from the angel Gibreel, and she leads her entire town of pilgrims over hundreds of miles and into the Arabian Sea. The third Ayesha is Mahound’s young and beautiful wife, who (Salman the Persian implies) was unfaithful to Mahound, and the fourth is the prostitute (and Baal’s favorite wife) who takes the name in order to attract customers.
Baal is the greatest satirist of Jahilia. “A sharp narrow youth” during chapter 2, he writes jeering verses about Mahound at Abu Simbel’s command. In chapter 6, however, at fifty years old, Baal experiences “a thickening of the tongue as well as...
(The entire section is 2733 words.)