Discuss the contribution of Rushdie's Midnight's Children to the Indian novel in English.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the most significant contributions of Midnight's Children to the Indian novel in English existed in how the novel critiqued both Indian and Colonial cultural expressions of the good.  While the novel was undeniably Postcolonial in scope, some of its most meaningful significance was an expression of how both the past and the present in the Colonial setting is filled with ambiguity, a lack of clarity, and doubt.  This is evidenced in so much throughout the novel. For example, the conditions of Saleem's birth and all of the Midnight's Children are ambiguous, just as his relationship with Shiva.  Saleem's examples of error or inability to serve as a coherent narrator is reflective of a larger element that Rushdie wishes to convey about both cultural settings:  

History is always ambiguous. Facts are hard to establish, and capable of being given many meanings. Reality is built on our prejudices, misconceptions and ignorance as well as on our perceptiveness and knowledge. The reading of Saleem's unreliable narration might be, I believed a useful analogy for the way in which we all, every day, attempt to 'read' the world. 

It is in this idea where the book is so significant.  Rushdie is conscious about how his book seeks to be an "attempt to read the world."  It is not one limited by cultural contexts, and its effect is to stress the universal condition of postcolonial literature:  "In remythologizing disenchanted Bombay—and so much else—without domesticating the energy there one whit, Rushdie somehow worked the same metamorphosis on my New York, and indeed on any Western city."  Midnight's Children  is so meaningful as an example of the Indian novel in English because it speaks to a condition of being intrinsic to both worlds.  "The West" and "The East" are put under the microscope by this Indian novel written in English.  It speaks for a universal and intricate notion of being in the world, something that both Indian audiences and English audiences could appreciate and grasp.

Rushdie is able to construct a work that serves as a template for many Postcolonial literary experiences. In this regard, Midnight's Children carries with it another profound contribution.  The idea of articulating an authentic Postcolonial experience through the language of "the oppressor" is powerful.  Rushdie's work contributes much to this experience.  Emerging from Midnight's Children, many other writers have been able to follow its footsteps in being true to the Postcolonial experience while writing in English.  Through his work, Rushdie greatly contributed to the idea that one can understand experiences of oppression and the silencing of voice through the language of those who perpetrated such abuses.  This helped to explore a globalized condition of being prior to globalization becoming the dominant paradigm with which to view the world.  It is in this respect where Midnight's Children becomes a significant contribution to the Indian novel in English.  Midnight's Children is able to do so by expanding and transforming the possibilities of what such work could actually be in the modern setting.

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