Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The theme of Midnight’s Children is clear. Born at the hour of the creation of India and Pakistan from colonial British India, the children are the masters and victims of their time. Born to be destroyed by the weight of history, their lives reflect the destiny of their society. Cardinal political events in India’s modern history are directly echoed in momentous happenings in their lives, while the cultural history of past millennia forms the backdrop of the action. History and myth painfully merge. Speaking for all the children, Saleem cries out, “Why, alone of all the more-than-five-hundred-million, should I have to bear the burden of history?”

The midnight-born Saleem, Shiva, and Parvati embody the major forces of Indian cultural and political history: the Muslim-reared Saleem, actually the son of a Hindu street singer’s seduced wife and a departing British colonial Sahib (a descendant of a founder of the British East India Company); Shiva, the son of a wealthy Muslim Kashmir merchant family, who becomes a penniless Hindu street urchin and a lecherous man of violence; and Parvati, a Hindu street magician. They are modern India, reflecting its cultural richness and diversity and, no less, the forces that tear it apart.

Thirty-year-old Saleem divides his memoir into thirty chapters, each named for an important artifact or event which becomes a motif, a touchstone, throughout the long narrative. Each chapter is framed by a...

(The entire section is 447 words.)


(Novels for Students)


Saleem Sinai, the protagonist of Midnight's Children, examines the thirty years of his life covered...

(The entire section is 1144 words.)