Story Plot:(with help of Wikipedia)
Midnight’s Children is a loose allegory for events in India both before and, primarily, after the independence and partition of India, which took place at midnight on 15 August 1947. The protagonist and narrator of the story is Saleem Sinai, a telepath with an extraordinary nose. The novel is divided into three books.
Midnight’s Children tells the story of the Sinai family and the earlier events leading up to India’s Independence and Partition, connecting the two lines both literally and allegorically. The central protagonist, Saleem Sinai, is born at the exact moment that India becomes independent. He later discovers that all children born in India between 12 AM and 1 AM on 15 August 1947, are imbued with special powers. Saleem thus attempts to use these powers to convene the eponymous children. The convention, or Midnight Children’s Conference, is in many ways reflective of the issues India faced in its early statehood concerning the cultural, linguistic, religious, and political differences faced by such a vastly diverse nation. Saleem acts as a telepathic conduit, bringing hundreds of geographically disparate children into contact while also attempting to discover the meaning of their gifts. In particular, those children born closest to the stroke of midnight wield more powerful gifts than the others. Shiva of the Knees, Saleem’s evil nemisis, and Parvati, called “Parvati-the-witch,” are two of these children with notable gifts and roles in Saleem’s story.
Meanwhile, Saleem must also contend with his personal trajectory. His family is active in this, as they begin a number of migrations and endure the numerous wars which plague the subcontinent. During this period he also suffers amnesia until he enters a quasi-mythological exile in the jungle of Sundarban, where he is re-endowed with his memory. In doing so, he reconnects with his childhood friends. Saleem later becomes involved with the Indira Gandhi-proclaimed Emergency and her son Sanjay’s “cleansing” of the Jama Masjid slum. For a time Saleem is held as a political prisoner; these passages contain scathing criticisms of Indira Gandhi’s overreach during the Emergency as well as what Rushdie seems to see as a personal lust for power bordering on godhood. The Emergency signals the end of the potency of the Midnight Children, and there is little left for Saleem to do but pick up the few pieces of his life he may still find and write the chronicle that encompasses both his personal history and that of his still-young nation; a chronicle written for his son, who, like his father, is both chained and supernaturally endowed by history.
Salman Rushdie is an excellent writer. In this book it shows how hard he labored over each chapter, each paragraph, even each line, to create a labyrinth of themes, a factory of twists and turns.
Midnight’s Children is not at all a fast read; it actually walks the line of being unpleasantly the opposite. The prose is dense and initially frustrating in a way that seems almost deliberate, with repeated instances of the narrator rambling ahead to a point that he feels is important–but then, before revealing anything of importance, deciding that things ought to come in their proper order.
I’ll admit that at first I didn’t appreciate being so persistently manipulated. Many times in the first few chapters I found myself closing the book in anger, thinking to myself “If the story is worth it, this tactic is utterly unnecessary.
The tactic, it turns out, is unnecessary. The book–the story–is stunning. It’s stunning enough that the frustrating aspects of the telling are forgivable and actually retrospectively satisfying . While the fractional digressions, on the one hand, can have you groping around for a lighter–they, on the other hand, work to accustom you to the novel’s epically meandering pace. Also, they effectively allow you to feel a certain urgency near the end of the book, as the narrator “runs out of time.”
The imagery is lush; the characters are curiously, magically lopsided; the language is complicated and beautiful; the chapters are nicely portioned despite the initial plodding pace; the narrative is deliberately allegorical, which perhaps suggests an enhanced enjoyment of the work after studying a bit of Indian history.