Are there any contemporary representations of history in Haroun and the Sea of Stories?

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

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Rushdie likes to use his literature as a means to represent contemporary realities. This can be seen in Haroun and the Sea of Stories, where Haroun's predicament represents the contemporary condition of history and power.  Rashid is nicknamed as the "Ocean of Notions" and "Shah of Blah."  He tells stories from a perspective that embraces freedom.  Rashid is an artist and not controlled by a politically directed end. As the story advances, Haroun recognizes that his father is directly positioned against Khattam-Shud, “the Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech."  Total freedom and expression- driven creativity is poised against totalizing forces.  This can be seen on a personal level, as well.  When Haroun's mother leaves Rashid for someone grounded in practical reality and devoid of stories, Rushdie is articulating a contemporary representation of history.  The paradigm is one where freedom is set against control. Those in the position of political power use their position to silence voices that cannot be directly contained.  Control becomes the means through which history is represented and how control is exerted.

Rushdie uses the story to illuminate how the artist can be seen as a threatening force to those in the position of power.  The contemporary representation of history is one where a conflict narrative is voiced in the face of a consensus vision of history.  The former seeks to explore the different aspects of freedom, while control and focused totality drives the latter.  This contemporary representation of history is evident in Rushdie's own narrative.  As an artist, he suffered greatly under the fatwa issued against him, an act of control that sought to silence his own condition as "the ocean of notions."  A sense of gravity is acquired when viewing the story in this light.  This contemporary representation of history is one of the reasons why Rushdie's work is artistically advanced and philosophically distinctive.

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