How does Salman Rushdie use characterization in the novel The Satanic Verses to explore the issue of self-creation?

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

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Despite the different social conditions and time periods in which the characters in Rushdie's work appear, there is a fairly dominant end in which they display the idea of self- creation.  Chamcha is in strong possession of self- creation and self- definition.  While he is born an Indian, he lives most of his life in denial of this reality, seeking to be a "good Englishman."  This is something that he feels he is able to do through his own creation and his own sense of identity formation, something that exists in his own hands.  It is represented in his own life through his struggles with his ethnicity and is also present in his ability to forge voices that can reflect different people, an act of self- creation that spells the doom of Farishta at the end. His counterpart, Gibreel Farishta, is another product of his own notion of self- creation.  He is able to enter films at an early age, define his own notion of identity, and even reject any notion of spirituality in the process.  The fact that he lives his life with so much in terms of freedom and self- choice reflects this, as he really never has to be bound to anything.  The opening of the novel where he is free- falling through the air is reflective of his own freedom and state of being, subject to his own self- creation.  To a great extent, the controversy the book caused reflects this as Mahound is a product of self- creation, as he is able to create his own messages, altering them to what will suit his own notion of the spiritual good.  To this end, there is a level of self- creation evident in the characters and their ability to define themselves and their world in accordance to their own subjectivity is critical to the novel's development.

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