Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Shame is the theme as well as the title of the novel and the sobriquet of its passive heroine, who absorbs the shame of those around her, becoming a violent beast. The shame is not only that of individuals but also that of a culture which gives shame a central place (as opposed to more pragmatic, legalist Western societies). Salman Rushdie addresses the cultural problem directly:

We who have grown up on a diet of honor and shame can still grasp what must seem unthinkable to peoples living in the aftermath of the death of God and of tragedy: ... Between shame and shamelessness lies the axis upon which we turn; meteorological conditions at both these poles are of the most extreme, ferocious type. Shamelessness, shame; the roots of violence.

Shame is emphatically not the standard, neo-nineteenth century, realistic novel. Instead, it draws equally on the traditions of the Arabian Nights and on the postmodernist novel. Rushdie freely inserts authorial statements remarking upon his own life, the genesis of the novel, and speculations about the actions of his creations. Among these, he tells of a story in a London newspaper. (Most of his life has been spent in England.) A Pakistani immigrant slits the throat of his only child, a daughter, for dating an English boy. In spite of his enormous love for the girl, the dishonor was more than he could bear. Nor would his Pakistani...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Shame Social Concerns / Themes

Unlike the sprawling nature of Midnight's Children (1981; please see separate entry), Shame is a tightly controlled narrative....

(The entire section is 601 words.)