Midnight's Children

by Salman Rushdie
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How does Salman Rushdie present magic realism in his novels, especially in Midnight's Children?

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Salman Rushdie writes about real-world events blended with mysticism and magical happenings. In Midnight's Children, the protagonist embodies this ideal because he was born right at the time that India and Pakistan were made into independent states and because he's telepathic. By presenting stories this way, Rushdie is able to make reality seem askew while still making it seem real and immediate to the reader.

The events in Midnight's Children mirror the real world. However, the inclusion of the protagonist and his narration constructs the story in such a way that even a person who lived in India during that time would not recognize it. Even though the book's sections chart different real-life occurrences in India, there is a twist to each event that makes it seem unreal or like something not of this world.

The narrator, Saleem, is born at the moment that India becomes independent; in total, 1000 children were born at that moment. All of their lives are guided by the fate of India. This is an example of magical realism. Even though the setting and historical events are real; the idea that children born at that moment are mystically linked to India makes the story fantastic. This convention makes the story something other than a retelling of historical events. This is one way in which Rushdie presents magical realism.

Saleem himself is so linked to India and Pakistan: his features physically resemble them. His nose is the shape of the subcontinent and his birthmarks reference Pakistan. There was a prophecy that told of his birth and what his impact would be. This is something else that links him to India. Obviously, magical prophecies aren't real; however, Rushdie is able to use these fantastic details to tell a real story about a time in history and how it affected the people who lived through it.

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Let us begin by reminding ourselves what a definition of magic realism actually is before going on to examine this excellent postcolonial classic. Magic realism is a literary style that combines incredible events with realistic details and presents them in a tone that seems to suggest credibility. This interlacing of fantastical events with the mundane was pioneered in Latin America. Generally, magic realism blends real and fantastic, incorporating magic, myth and imagination into its genre, seeking to redefine what constitutes reality.

Now, having given ourselves a working definition of the term, let us now examine Midnight's Children. It is clear that Rushdie incorporates "real" and "unreal" elements, drawing on mythology, and, some critics argue, "remythologising" India in the process. We can see this is evident from the beginning of the novel, which focuses on the Independence of India. However, immediately, this very real and political event is juxtaposed with the midnight's children, who are gifted with magical powers.

This is what makes this novel so attractive and such a gripping read. Rushdie seems to offer comment on real political events but through flights of fantasy that seem to draw on various myths and legend. Equally, you might want to consider the role of the central protagonist, Saleem, who is presented in such a way as to undermine his credibility. He is unattractive and foolish, and yet he is the central way in which Rushdie offers serious political commentary on the postcolonial nature of India. Again and again, the absurd and ludicrous is matched with the deathly serioius.

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