Midnight's Children

by Salman Rushdie

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Discuss how Midnight's Children can be considered a Postcolonial novel.

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While there are many complex aspects to Midnight's Children, it is clear that Rushdie offers a Postcolonial narrative.  Rushdie appropriates many elements of Postcolonialism in his work.  The first is the lack of a reliable narrator.  Building off the idea of a lack of totality that is a part of Postcolonialism, Saleem is far from a totalizing narrator.  His dates are wrong.  Some of his facts are not accurate.  He is a participant in his own narrative, leading to issues of bias.  These are all deliberate, as Rushdie seeks to make a statement that there can be no definitive notion of history.  Any such construction is going to silence voice and that the best we can do is collect as many narratives as possible.  This is a Postcolonialism response to the condition of imposition that sought to present itself as "the truth."

Another element of Postcolonialism in Midnight's Childrenis how it is told from the indigenous point of view.  The presence of the British is felt, but the story, itself, is one of Partition and division.  Rushdie's use of All India Radio, Bollywood songs, as well appropriating Muslim and Hindu notions of reality help to enhance the Postcolonial understanding of the work.  Being able to relay the basis of Partition as well as the Emergency from an indigenous point of view is also reflective of the Postcolonial elements of Midnight's Children.  From a theoretical point of view, Rushdie wishes to deposit another vision of the narrative into the discourse, one that hopes to achieve voice and enhance dialogue.  This becomes an element of the Postcolonialism in the novel.

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How is Midnight's Children a postcolonial novel?  

Salman Rusdie’s classic novel Midnight’s Children is a prime example of a postcolonial novel for a number of reasons. Chief among them is the fact that Rushdie addresses British imperialism and its effects on India. Indeed, the story of Saleem Sinai, a man born midnight, August 15th, 1947—the exact moment that India became independent of British rule—is inextricable from the story of India’s freedom from imperial forces. One of the most potent images of British rule in the novel comes in the form of Methwold estates, the garish colonial homes owned by a posh British man that Amina and Ahmed Sinai live in. Amina is cutting with her thoughts on this potent metaphor for British imperialism:

“Even if we’re sitting in the middle of all this English garbage… this is still India, and people like Ramram Seth know what they know” (110).

By incorporating these elements and directly referring to Indian independence, Rushdie firmly positions his novel as an exemplary piece of postcolonial literature.

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