Midnight's Children

by Salman Rushdie

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Comment on the narrative technique of Midnight's Children.

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Narrated in first person in the voice of Saleem Sinai, Midnight's Children continuously alternates between the past and the present. Rushdie has employed this narrative technique to enable the narrator to move through time with ease. While we find Sinai's grandfather Adam Aziz performing Namaz in the valley of Kashmir at one point, the next page brings us to the present, in which Sinai is seated at his writing desk with Padma by his side.

Another technique which makes the narration rich is how the narrator holds creates suspense. There are various episodic revelations which fill the reader with awe and wonder. With revelations like the blindness of Ghani the landowner, Mumtaz's sexless married life with Nadir Shah, and the reality behind Methwold's middle-parted hair, the narrator doesn't fail to surprise the reader every now and then.

Also, the narrator has such a strong hold on his narration that he leaves no room for any disbelief or questioning on the part of the reader. The reader believes everything that the narrator says to be true unless the narrator himself proves it false (for instance, by changing the truth of his entire family lineage), and the reader believes this too. Such is the conviction in his narration.

The narration of all events, significant or not, revolves around Saleem. Hence, Midnight's Children is a narrative by a writer sitting at his writing desk, penning down all that he recollects or recounts, coating facts with magical words and spells like "abracadabra." While narrating the "magical" history of his birth, Saleem takes us through the "real" history of India. Thus, this novel is a fictitious account of many non-fictitious events, placing this narration in the genre of magic realism.

Hence, Saleem is a brilliant narrator and a master of the art of storytelling.

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The narrative technique of the story is in first person. It is told from Saleem's point of view, and we understand the history of Indian independence, Partition, and all that follows through his eyes. Yet, it is within this that the greatness of the themes and story itself lies. Saleem is an unreliable narrator. He makes many errors in trying to be the sole font of knowledge and solitary light that guides the reader through the darkness that is called "history." The narrative technique of first-person narration fraught with errors is a deliberate attempt on Rushdie's part to bring to light the idea of subjectivity having limits but being the only guide one has. Rushdie has written that the work itself should not be seen as history, but rather be seen as art, as an example of how individuals have only their own subjectivity to guide them. This is evidenced in Rushdie's embrace of Saleem as the sole narrator. Although he makes obvious and subtle mistakes, we, as the readers, can only rely on him to help provide understanding through the emotional and political complexities of the time. We are thus left with a powerful stylistic and thematic statement on how human freedom is futile at many points, but it is all that one has in the modern setting.

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