Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children

by

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight’s Children: Book 2: How Saleem Achieved Purity Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Following Aadam’s death, Reverend Mother and Pia move to Pakistan. Reverend Mother does not mourn or mention Aadam, who had long since refused to move to Pakistan. The two women open a petrol station, and they do excellent business. Pia’s beauty draws in customers, and once there, they are strangely compelled to stay. Drinking pink Kashmiri tea, the customers tell Reverend Mother their entire life stories.
Pia and Reverend Mother also dismantle traditional gender stereotypes. Together, they run a successful business—a business that happens to have a very masculine connotation—and they do it without any men. Their business has a feminine touch with pink tea and on-the-spot counseling, but they are nevertheless successful. 
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After Aadam’s death, Saleem finds himself dreaming about Kashmir, even though he has never been there. His life in Karachi is becoming difficult, and for the first time in their lives, Saleem and Jamila avoid each other completely.
Saleem’s conflicted identity parallels that of Aadam’s, whose own identity was rooted in Kashmir. Despite confirming their relationship as true siblings, Jamila still exits Saleem’s life. 
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Soon, Alia begins to work her revenge on Ahmed and Amina. She begins, like Mary Pereira and Reverend Mother, to stir her emotions into her cooking, and she feeds Saleem and his family her food infused with hate and revenge. The family becomes moody and distraught under the influence of Alia’s cooking, and Jamila soon begins to avoid them all together. Ahmed’s business begins to fail, and he soon suffers a stroke, turning into child, “capable of little more than dribbles and giggles.”
 Alia’s cooking is another example of food’s ability to elicit emotions and activate memories. Alia enacts her revenger through her cooking, finding power within the domestic realm. Additionally, Ahmed’s stroke and the failure of his towel business is another example of the fragility of social class and effects of Saleem’s metaphorical “Snakes and Ladders.”
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Related Quotes
In January of 1965, Amina discovers that she is again pregnant, and she begins to rapidly age. As she worries and endures nightmares about the state of her unborn baby, Amina turns into an old woman.
Amina is exhausted, and finally pregnant, she is weakened and has lost her power—and her energy to keep fighting the patriarchy.
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Zafar, still waiting for his fiancée, daughter of the Nawab, to reach puberty, is dispatched to Rann of Kutch, a disputed territory located in Pakistan. As Indian and Pakistani forces fought in the territory, the soldiers believe that they see ghosts fighting each other. Now, Zafar and the other Pakistani soldiers are tasked with occupying the boarder until new troops arrive.
Zafar’s fiancé continues to exercise her power by refusing to menstruate. Zafar is deceived by both his fiancée and his father, whose smugglers dupe Zafar into believing they are ghosts, further humiliating him.
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On his last night of occupation, Zafar sees an army of ghosts approach and cross the territory. Zafar is scared to death and sure he is about to die when he discovers that they are not actually ghosts. Instead, the men are smugglers, operating under the direction of General Zulfikar.
Presumably, Zulfikar is aware of the ghostly rumors, and still fails to inform his son of the truth. He is determined to humiliate Zafar at every turn, and Zafar’s hatred for his father grows as he fights and defends his father’s beloved Pakistan.
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After returning from the Rann of Kutch, Zafar arrives at his father’s home in Rawalpindi. Blaming Zulfikar for his awful experiences in the territory, Zafar slips into his father’s room and murders him, slitting his throat with a “long, curved smuggler’s knife.”
Zafar’s patricide has been brewing for years, and when he finally kills Zulfikar, his death is the metaphorical death of the patriarchy as well.
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It is August 1965, and Saleem’s life is about to change on account of the Indo-Pakistani War, which he claims is initiated for the sole purpose of destroying his entire family. As the war intensifies, fighting over the territory of Kashmir, it is one week before Saleem’s eighteenth birthday. He waits to be drafted.
Saleem will be forced to fight against India—against his metaphorical self—and the fight worsens in Kashmir, the birthplace of Saleem’s true identity.
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On the night of September 22, air-raids take place all over Pakistan. Of the three bombs that hit Rawalpindi, the first hits and kills Reverend Mother and Pia, the second hits Zafar’s jailhouse, effectively freeing him, and the third hits Emerald’s house, killing her as well.
Notably, the bomb kills the all the women, but not Zafar. Not only is he spared, he is also freed. This too reflects the power of the patriarchy; the women are killed while Zafar is rewarded.
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The bombs also hit Karachi, including the home of Uncle Puffs and his seven daughters. Another bomb falls on the home Alia, killing Saleem’s entire family, including Ahmed, Amina, and their unborn child. The final bomb in Karachi falls on and destroys Ahmed’s newly constructed split-level home.
Just as Saleem claims, the purpose of the air-raid is to wipe out his entire family—and anyone who could potentially become his family. India is punishing Saleem for defecting, and she (Mother India is depicted as a woman) is doing it by killing his family.
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As Saleem runs around the blast-zone chaos, knocked back by the power of the explosion, Amina’s old spittoon, her wedding gift from Rani, comes flying out of the fiery debris, striking Saleem on the back of the head. Saleem is suddenly and completely stripped of his memory and identity, restoring his innocence and purity.
The old spittoon is a metaphorical symbol of India, and, ironically, it is what knocks Saleem out. Through his amnesia and the stripping of his identity, Saleem is purified, and is now a much more suitable citizen for Pakistan.
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