Midnight`s Children by Salman Rushdie in relation to colonialism in India

Takinga step back and looking at India’s past beyond the realms ofacademics as postulated by Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Childrenimaginary masterpiece, it depicts a starting point for theinvestigation of India’s political and cultural situation. Both ofthese factors are immensely affected by historical events with astrong linkage to modernization and development processes that occurin Asia. It is imperative to illustrate that these occurrences areunderlined in a period when neocolonialism, globalization andtransnationalism are at their optimal. Rushdie’s Midnight’sChildren paints a clear picture on the time around 1915 and explainswhat happened to India after it gained its independence in 1915.

Themasterpiece goes further to explain some of the well-known movementsof the time like Gandhi’s quit India movement, partitioning ofIndia into India and Pakistan and also the 1975-1977 state ofemergency. Rushdie tries to explain and analyze the realities as hesupposes to call them through history deconstruction as he writes inthe book (Midnight’s Children) “Realityis a question of perspective the further you get from the past, themore concrete and plausible it seems – but as you approach thepresent, it inevitably seems more and more incredible”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 211). This paper focusses on thedifferent aspects of colonialism and post colonialism, further thepaper tries to portray and analyze the main influences of colonialismin identity building and cultural formation in Asia and morespecifically in India.


Post-colonialtheory is mainly embedded on the precept that there is an existenceof the dominant masters in history, philosophy and linguistics itincludes discussions on migration trends, slavery, resistance,oppression, race, representation and gender among many othervariables that were portrayed by the colonial masters. Post-colonialstudy seeks to identify value and empower what the colonial mastersterm as barbaric and old-fashioned in given regions. The question onpost-colonial studies is not itself exclusive to the main subjects,but it is essential for carrying out any form of study relating torecovery of histories and perspectives of the marginalized in thesociety. Salman Rushdie describes this argument by stating that “ina kind of collective failure of imagination, we learned that wesimply could not think our way out of our pasts”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 148).

Accordingto his novel Rushdie depicts that the society can be analyzed as away of co-opting political and literacy power. His novelre-constructs and de-constructs India’s past by analyzing thepost-colonial issues such as identity, loss of self, migration andfragmentation through displacements and the difficulty of one facingtheir historical past. In Midnight Children the narrator Salem thenasserts that “Sothat the story I am going to tell, (…), is as likely to be true asanything as anything, that is to say, except what we were officiallytold”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 425). Rushdie continues to base hisarguments on the legitimization of the power of the authority arguingthat “Itis possible to create past events simply by saying they occurred”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 564). Rushdie goes further to pinpointthat people have responsibilities and there ought to be no excuses onany occurrences in the society.

Atsome point Salman mourns the missed opportunities in his country dueto colonialism however this is quickly replaced by varieties andvalue differences that are evident in his narrative. He writes aboutprocesses and awareness on emancipation, passion, rebirth, hope,expression and love depicted by his fictional characters strugglingwith their own fate. the figures in his work are symbolic, in thesense that they portray the present countless diverse colonial,postcolonial and globalization voices. As much as he employsfictitious characters in his masterpiece, they stand in a goodposition to represent and authenticate western attributions anddescriptions. The author also expresses a third world consciousthroughout the masterpiece, this provides a liberating response tothe codes of imperialism history and fragmentation heritage andinstances of discontinuity as he asserts that “Europerepeats itself, in India, as farce” (Midnight’sChildren, 1995: 235).

Theexpansion of imperial colonial empire was mainly bound to thedevelopment of other, establishing primitive, native, marginal andperipheral as antitheses. This led to the inculcation of such valuesas civilization and humanity. Otherness is never given at anyinstance but always founded and constructed, it also juxtaposes thatthe mechanism of repression and projection are key in theconstruction of Others, for instance, ‘woman as other,’ ‘thirdworld as other,’ and ‘third world woman as Other.’ Thedevelopment of other logic goes further to construct the self-image,making the two concepts very closely linked to one another. Rushdietries to give voice to the weak and voiceless in the society byoffering them a power of description. In the process he tries toensure that the voiceless are brought to the center of a circle fromwhere they were misplaced from in the first instance. He tries tocreate a balance that was destroyed by colonialism. For instance, hesays that “it’sa dangerous business to try and impose one’s view of things onothers”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 269).

nMidnight’s Children, Rushdie analyzes the construction process ofOthers by depicting that “Allthe best people are white under the skin (Midnight’s Children,1995: 228) or “Even blackies know white is nicer, don`t you thinkso?”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 85), he understands very well that thesociety is aligned on the premise of color and race which is as aresult of colonialism in Asia. Rushdie is aware of India’srepresentation as Others in the East/West, colonized and colonizerbinary. However, Rushdie refuses to view India as that nation whichlies on the world map as Others. Instead he demonstrates how theIndia as Other is the other face of the western modernity andpostmodernity. In his writing Rushdie depicts that there has beennumerous racial intermixing not only from the west but also withinIndia. He portends that: “Thereare as many versions of India as Indians”(Midnight’s Children, 1995: 341). Rushdie goes further and createsa third space to a given binary system that defines India as adevalued Other. He tends to incorporate a third principle that ismeant to include both sides inside and outside or superior andinferior to come up with a hybrid of clarity and disclosure. This iswell projected by Saleem the narrator when he says “we,’I cried passionately, ‘must be a third principle we must be theforce which drives between the horns of the dilemma for only bybeing other, by being new …!’(Midnight’sChildren, 1995: 323).


Fromthe discussion above it is imperative to depict that Midnight’sChildren is a masterpiece that goes beyond academia to analyze thepresent society with an intention of creating an environment which ismore peaceful to all people. Rushdie goes ahead to discuss the waysome of the countries view others on the basis of color and race. Forinstance, the West/East tend to categorize countries like India on ascale of Others, this is mainly because of the social, economic andpolitical structure of the former colonies. Thus, it is imperative tostate that Rushdie tends to give a negative perception on the effectsof colonialism to developing nations or third world countries as theyare categorized by the developed nations. One of the most negativeapproaches postulated towards these smaller countries isdiscrimination. Nations like Britain tend to overlook countries likeIndia which was its colony before gaining independence in 1915.


Rushdie,S. (1995). Midnight`schildren.New York: A.A. Knopf.