The Satanic Verses has a convoluted plot, or perhaps it is better to describe the novel as having a complex main framing plot which allows Rushdie to include a number of subplots or embedded stories. The main plot concerns the coming together and falling apart of Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha. Both of them are Indian actors, but whereas Gibreel has become a superstar in his country by playing the role of gods in "theologicals," or films based on religious subjects, Saladin has had less spectacular success in England by lending his voice to television commercials and a situation comedy called The Aliens Show. The two men meet under extraordinary circumstances: they are on an Air-India jumbo jet which is taken over and then blown apart by Canadian Sikh terrorists. Their fates are conjoined as they miraculously survive the crash and fall down on an English beach. But if they manage to escape death, both Saladin and Gibreel undergo a weird transformation as they descend: Gibreel has a halo around his head and fancies himself an angel who will blow the trumpet of doom while Saladin is metamorphosed into a goat, complete with horns, legs, and hoofs. In his altered state, Gibreel spends most of his time having visions and exhibiting the symptoms of a paranoid schizophrenic. Saladin, however, is captured by police on the lookout for illegal immigrants, despite the years he has spent in England and his attempt to become an Englishman. Since at the moment...
(The entire section is 1476 words.)
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Good and Evil
The Satanic Verses touches on a great variety of political, cultural, abstract, and theoretical themes. Many of its most central ideas relate to philosophical and religious notions of good and evil. The narrator tends to view the plot as an epic battle between Gibreel, the angel of good, and Saladin, the devil of evil. Rushdie reinforces this framework by giving these characters their supernatural qualities.
Good and evil in the epic battle between Gibreel and Saladin often refer to two main areas: national/ethnic identity and religious faith. Gibreel’s status as an angel is closely related to his crisis of faith, and his transformation begins shortly after he develops the conviction that God does not exist. Meanwhile, Saladin’s metamorphosis into the devil is inextricable from his quest to assimilate entirely into British culture and his association with oppressed Asian and African immigrants in England. Like the other magically deformed creatures who escape from the hospital, Saladin assumes his devilish shape because English racism has transformed him with its “power of description.” Why exactly Gibreel embodies good, while Saladin embodies evil, is never made entirely or explicitly clear, and as the reader rapidly becomes aware, notions of good and evil are hopelessly jumbled by the end of the first chapter.
Countless other situations also take the form of a fight, or confrontation,...
(The entire section is 863 words.)