Sectarian and Sexual Lines in Indian Writing in English
Chapter 8: Midnight’s Children: A Narrative of Narcissist Failure
← 96 | 97 →CHAPTER 8
Midnight’s Children: A Narrative of Narcissist Failure
The Impossible Desire for Self-Reference and the Homeland
Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children delineates the narrator Saleem’s self-alienation and fragmentation. The process of his psychological subject formation is chained to the formation and fragmentation of Indiaas a newly born nation state. This intertwining means, as M. K. Naik comments, that Midnight’s Children is a “many-faceted novel … an autobiographical bildungsroman, a picaresque narrative, a political allegory … a surrealist fantasy …” (1987: 46). Most critics have tended to centre on the modernity of its complex structure and its experimental style, and recent criticism tends to focus on the relationship between individual and political identity, which is structured in the frames of a Bildungsroman and a political allegory. In The Imaginary Homeland Rushdie insists that writers and politicians “try to make the world in their own images”, and that writers can resist the power of the State, which tries to “alter the past to fit present needs” (1992: 14). Yet this novel is largely a narrative of failure. We need to consider why and how Saleem narrates a story of his life which ends with him as one of the “specks of voiceless dust” (Rushdie 1981: 463) in a crowd, his autobiography a record of his defeat and dismemberment, and, by extension, of the defeat and dismemberment of India.
It is important to note here that Saleem is “made and unmade” by women, one of whom...
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