Friday, March 24, 2006

 

One Jar Must Remain Empty

The end of Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is complex. It is not purely troubling or hopeful; Rushdie leaves us with a cautious mix. In order to extract a resolution one must consider two important elements in which the ending hinges upon: the fall of the Midnight’s Children and the birth of Parvati and Shiva’s child.
India’s leader Indira Ghandi had her men torture Saleem for the names of the Midnight’s Children who are then rounded up. Jealous of their ties with India and its history she has them sterilized and partially lobotomized, negating their powers. This event signifies the end of their era. Their sterilization is quite disheartening. It’s as if Saleem’s impotence had been magnified. The reader’s only consolation is the fact that Shiva had impregnated women across the country including Parvati, the witch.
The birth of Aadam is a sort of a bow on the gift of the novel tying it all together and renewing cycles in the characters’ lives. Shiva, jerk that he is of course does not wish to (and probably shouldn’t be able to) raise the child. Saleem decides to take the task thus repeating (or reversing) the switch-at-birth. Aadam Sinai’s birth coincides with the beginning of the State of Emergency in India, during Indira Ghandi’s reign. Being a “next generation Midnight’s Child” it is implied Aadam will be tied to the future just as Saleem was tied to history.
With little hope for himself, Saleem in the end knows his life is essentially over. But considering his child the reader can still hope for the the “empty jar that is the future.”

Comments:
"The empty jar that is the future" seems like an apt metaphor for a book that ranges from extreme realism to extreme mysticism/insanity. True to his commitment to telling the truth (realism), Saleem can't give us the "happily ever after" fairytale ending that we would all like. He can't tell us that everything works out okay, because life doesn't always work that way. However, he can leave us with little triumphs, such as his laughter upon finding that Shiva has undergone a "voluntary vasectomy." Even though everything looks dark, the Widow has not accomplished her goal of wiping out the Midnight's Children: Shiva has a lot of little kids running around somewhere. The book isn't a happy one- it's a "cautious mix." But a happy ending isn't always what makes a novel (or life for that matter) good. It has a lot to do with what happens along the way, and the meaning that comes from it. I think that's part of the unique way Rushdie wants to portray the world.
 
I think you're very right in saying that Rushdie's ending is bittersweet, ambiguously implying that Aadam Sinai's birth provides hope for the future while also condemning his adopted son to the same life that Saleem had of being "a master and victim of his time" (533). Through Saleem's narration, Rushdie presents a story that is realistic to the point of making its characters grotesque to prove this fact to the reader. As such, Rushdie doesn't give us some implausible ending where everyone is happy and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if it is not reached by Saleem himself. I agree with Lisa that a good novel has a lot to do with the journey that it goes through. Rushdie would subscribe to that notion as well. Saleem tells us his entire history starting from his "grandfather," Aadam Aziz. Since he is connected to history, everything that happened to everyone in his life prior to and even after his birth shapes his identity and effects the outcome of his life. With the novel ending as it does with the future remaining a mystery, multiple interpretations about the novel can be made according to the reader. Saleem has given us pieces of his life, pieces of history, and allows us to form our own wholistic understanding of Midnight's Children. This effect on the reader connects the theme of parts to the whole that is constantly discussed throughout the novel to the ultimate goal of the reader to acquire the knowledge of Saleem's life and the state of India and make intelligent inferences in the present and in the future. Great job, Keith. Really clear and succinct.
 
I agree with what Lisa said in that a happy ending doesn't always make the novel, its the events that take place along the way. The events in the novel are presented in a first person narrative from Saleem's point of view. Rushdie uses the stream-of-consciousness style when revealing the plot. In the first chapter Saleem shifts back and forth in time when telling his life story. He often refers to events or feelings that take place much later in his life. Saleem, therefore, demands that the reader solve the mystery of his narrartion by being able to put the events together sequentially. At the end of the novel, however, all of the events have unfolded and have come together. At the end of the novel, Saleem's son Aadam finally speaks after the first three years of his life, saying "Abracadabra". This word indicates the magical elements of the story and also signifies Saleem as being Aadam's father, even if not biologically. Saleem believes that his son is stronger than he is and will learn from his mistakes. Even though the ending is not particularly happy, it provides a glimmer of hope.
 
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