Haroun and the Sea of Stories

by Salman Rushdie

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Discuss the suitability of the plot, language, setting, and characterization in Haroun and the Sea of Stories as it relates to readership.

The fantastical setting, playful language, playful characters, and fairy-tale plot of Haroun and the Sea of Stories make it suitable for a readership composed mostly of children.

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Supposedly, Haroun and the Sea of Stories started out as a bedtime story for Salman Rushdie’s son. Perhaps that provides a clue for who the main audience or reader might be: children.

If you examine the language, you might find more evidence that this book is suitable for children....

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Supposedly, Haroun and the Sea of Stories started out as a bedtime story for Salman Rushdie’s son. Perhaps that provides a clue for who the main audience or reader might be: children.

If you examine the language, you might find more evidence that this book is suitable for children. Think about how the book begins:

There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cites, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name.

The “once” might remind you of “once upon a time,” which could relate to fairy tales.

Children also seem inclined toward books that possess a melody. In other words, children’s books, when read aloud, have a nicer sound. The repetition of “sad” seems to give that first sentence a rhythmic, chanting quality.

As for the plot, it too seems suitable for children. There are people who are clearly good: Rashid and Haroun. There are people who are clearly bad: Khattam-Shud. The clear division between good and bad is present in many other children books, including Matilda, Peter Pan, and Coraline.

Although, there are some areas that suggest that the readership might also be composed of adults. When the Shadow Warrior gurgles “Gogogol” and coughs “Kafkafka,” he might be alluding to the famous Russian author Nikolai Gogol and the equally famous German author Franz Kafka. An adult might understand these references better than a child.

As for the setting, you could say the fantastical realm is suitable for a juvenile readership because children are generally believed to have robust imaginations.

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