Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children

by

Salman Rushdie

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Midnight’s Children can help.

Midnight’s Children: Book 2: Alpha and Omega Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Saleem continues his story, he describes the civil unrest present in Bombay after the election. Riots are frequent, and the language marchers continue chanting his nonsensical rhyme. The state of Bombay will soon be partitioned, and several prostitutes are found dead, murdered by strangulation. The newspapers report that instead of thumbprints, the corpses have much larger bruises around their necks—bruises which Saleem claims are “wholly consistent” with the marks left by “a pair of giant, preternaturally powerful knees.”
Saleem suspects Shiva of murdering the prostitutes. Shiva is named after a god of procreation, and as such, he is known to frequent brothels. Why Shiva murders the prostitutes is not clear; however, this violence is a clear representation of Shiva’s power over women.
Themes
Sex and Gender Theme Icon
Bombay is rocked by a severe drought, and Methwold’s Estate is invaded by countless cats in search of water. After many failed attempts to rid them from the property, Evie Burns appears with her Daisy pistol. As she opens fire on the unwanted cats, killing them left and right, the Brass Monkey appears and knocks her to the ground.
The Brass Monkey has been waiting for the right moment to make Evie pay for all she has done, and when she kills the cats (another animal that the Monkey is able to talk to) it is the last straw. When the Monkey stands up to Evie, she is metaphorically standing up to European colonialism. 
Themes
British Colonialism and Postcolonialism Theme Icon
Evie and the Monkey roll around, flailing and kicking, until the gardener finally separates them by spraying them with a garden hose. As the dust settles, it is clear the Monkey has bested Evie, “her spirit and her dominion over us broken for once and for all.” Shortly after, Evie’s father sends her back to America “to get a decent education away from these savages.”
Evie is the one killing cats and planning physical assault within her mind, yet her father considers the Monkey a “savage.” Clearly it is Evie who is a savage; however, her status as an American (the same thing as a European in Saleem’s eyes) means that she is the civilized one.
Themes
British Colonialism and Postcolonialism Theme Icon
The more Saleem communicates with the Midnight Children’s Conference, the more he dislikes Shiva. Shiva continues to insist that he is the true leader of the children, and Saleem suspects him of murdering the prostitutes (although he doesn’t have any proof—Shiva can close him out of his thoughts). Saleem discovers, in addition to his telepathy, that his mind can serve as a forum for the other children to communicate with each other. Every night after, from midnight until one, the Midnight Children’s Conference meets inside Saleem’s head.
The fact that Shiva is impervious to Saleem’s power suggests that they are more equally matched than Saleem would like to admit. Whether or not Shiva is the true leader of the Midnight Children’s Conference is never answered, and Shiva is never made aware of his true identity. This creates doubt as to Saleem’s claim to be the rightful leader of the conference.
Themes
Identity and Nationality Theme Icon
Get the entire Midnight’s Children LitChart as a printable PDF.
Midnight s children.pdf.medium
The other children elect Saleem as their leader, and his first order of business is to figure out their collective purpose. “We must think,” he says, “what we are for.” Some believe they should use their skills to assist the government, while others suggest that they invade Pakistan. One girl even suggests that they offer themselves up to science to be studied. Overall, Saleem is disappointed with their ideas and becomes increasingly distracted by his school’s upcoming dance with the girls of their sister institution.
Saleem is ultimately selected as the leader democratically. He is their leader not because he has declared it so, but because they have selected him. The conference has become a “loose federation of equals.” In short, the Conference is a classless, or communist, society. In this way, Rushdie implies that communism may be a suitable solution to India’s social problems.
Themes
Identity and Nationality Theme Icon
Fragments and Partitioning Theme Icon
Later at school, Saleem attends his dreaded geography class taught by Mr. Zagallo, an unpleasant Anglo man who refers to his students as “sons of baboons.” The topic of the day is “human geography,” and when none of the students are able to provide a definition, Zagallo begins to aggressively twist the ear of a student named Jimmy Kapadia. “Heroism gets the better” of Saleem and he objects, telling Zagallo to stop on account of Jimmy’s heart condition.
Like Evie and Methwold, Mr. Zagallo, a white European, believes that he is superior to his Indian students. He insults them and calls them animals, and he even physically assaults them as a form of punishment. Mr. Zagallo abuses his power as a teacher, and this represent the exploited power of European colonialists.
Themes
British Colonialism and Postcolonialism Theme Icon
Zagallo pulls Saleem out his chair by his hair and brings him to the front of the class. Laughing, Zagallo points to the birthmarks on Saleem’s face, and comparing them to a map of India, declares Saleem “human geography.” He then points to a smaller birthmark just under the larger, and referring to it as a stain, declares it Pakistan. “Remember, stupid boys: Pakistan is a stain on the face of India!” Just then, a large glob of snot drips from Saleem’s nose, landing on Zagallo’s hand. Enraged, he again lifts Saleem by a handful of hair, ripping it clean out of his head, resulting in a “monkish tonsure.”
Just as Saleem’s identity is a metaphor for India, his face is a literal representation of the county’s geography, and this serves to deepen his connection to his nation. Mr. Zagallo’s reference to Pakistan as a “stain” suggests that holds them in even lower regard than Indians. Saleem’s “monkish tonsure” represents his forced obedience to Mr. Zagallo, and by extension, his obedience to Western culture and ideas. Saleem’s hair doesn’t grow back until after he falls in love with Parvati.
Themes
British Colonialism and Postcolonialism Theme Icon
Identity and Nationality Theme Icon
Later, at the school dance, two bullies approach Saleem, mocking him because of his bald spot and calling him “map-face.” They give chase, and Saleem runs, slamming his hand in a door in the process. The top of his middle finger is severed, and he is quickly rushed to the hospital. As Saleem awaits surgery, the doctor asks his parents to donate blood for a transfusion.
The school bullies make fun of Saleem’s face, and by extension, they also insult India, and they are a small-scale representation of the country’s social unrest. Saleem’s severed finger means that Mary’s secret is about to come to light, and they all remain oblivious.
Themes
Identity and Nationality Theme Icon
Amina and Ahmed learn that Saleem’s blood does not match their own. Type A and O respectively (and rhesus positive), Saleem is neither A nor O—and is rhesus negative. Ahmed immediately accuses Amina of cheating, and as they leave the room to fight in private, Saleem hears the unmistakable sound of a slap. Sitting alone, Saleem comments to himself, “Most of what matters in your life takes place in your absence.”
Ahmed’s first reaction is that his wife has been unfaithful—despite the fact that she can’t be his mother either—and this is evidence of his general disrespect and dislike for women and a reflection of India’s sexist and patriarchal society. Saleem’s comment represents his lack of control in determining his own destiny, and that of his country. 
Themes
Truth and Storytelling Theme Icon
Sex and Gender Theme Icon