Midnight’s Children

Midnight’s Children

by

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight’s Children: Book 2: Jamila Singer Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Living in Karachi in his aunt Alia’s home, Saleem’s clear nose and sinuses are now able to smell emotions. He smells Alia’s hypocrisy and jealousy, despite her outward pleasantness. Alia has never forgiven Ahmed or Amina for their deception, and she is unable to hide her true feelings from Saleem, who now has “the powers of sniffing-out-the-truth.”
Saleem is not completely powerless, and he senses Alia’s revenge. This new information only adds to Saleem’s critical eye regarding his mother and his opinion that she is a “loose woman” like Lila Sabarmati.
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In his new city, Saleem cannot “forgive Karachi for not being Bombay.” He misses his city, and this one feels “hopeless,” having “grown too fast.” Aunt Alia’s house is in the “accusing shadow” of a minaret, and to Saleem, everything about the Muslim Pakistan screams “submission,” a stark contrast to the “nonconformity of Bombay.”
Saleem is India, after all, and he is uncomfortable in the young country of Pakistan. The minaret near Alia’s house is a physical representation of the huge Islamic presence in the country, and it is all-consuming. Saleem is completely out of place in the religious state.
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Soon after arriving in Karachi, Ahmed declares that the Sinais will now be new people. He decides to build a new home, an “American-style modern bungalow,” and purchases a plot of land. He consecrates the new land with Saleem’s umbilical cord and brine (preserved in a pickle-jar). Despite Ahmed’s optimism, Saleem discovers that he has entered Pakistan from the wrong direction. Successful conquests to Pakistan have long since begun in the north, but Saleem has entered the country from the south-east.
Ahmed’s newfound optimism and his efforts to become a new person is another reflection of postcolonial hybridity within the India subcontinent. Ahmed is going to make a real effort to be a Pakistani, and he is going to do it in an American-style bungalow. Ironically, the umbilical cord that he traditionally consecrates the land with may not even belong to his son.  
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Ahmed and Amina continue to finally enjoy a good marriage. Ahmed’s loins have begun to thaw, and the two spend much time together. Ahmed opens a new business manufacturing and selling towels, which he names “Amina Brand.” Together, they hope to “make the whole world clean and dry.”
Since Ahmed is not interested in devoting himself to religion, he instead devotes himself to business, and this is a reflection of his secular, Indian side. Ahmed chooses to manufacture towels and make the world a cleaner place because cleanliness is next to godliness.
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Related Quotes
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Major (Retired) Alauddin Latif arrives at aunt Alia’s to hear Jamila sing. He has heard about her from General Zulfikar, and he hopes to make her famous. Ahmed agrees, and within six months, Jamila is famous.
Ironically, Jamila’s Muslim persona is a fraud (deep down, she is still devoted to Christianity); however, the Pakistani people embrace her as their nation’s daughter, and like Saleem, Jamila now represents an entire country.
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Latif is soon a frequent presence at Alia’s house. They begin to refer to him as Uncle Puffs, and during his regular visits, he encourages Saleem to marry one of his seven daughters. Amina is quick to change the subject and is not fond of the idea of her son marrying one of Latif’s daughters.
Uncle Puffs’ attempts to persuade Saleem to marry one of his daughters—any one of his daughters—is another example of the oppression of women in society. Uncle Puffs’ offer, presumably, does not come with his daughters’ consent.
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Jamila’s increasing fame leads to a public concert, but before Latif books it, he begins a rumor that Jamila has been the victim of a terrible disfiguring accident and must keep her face covered with a heavy silk chadar, which is held up by two muscular, sexless figures. In the center of the chadar, Latif cuts a three-inch hole, through which Jamila sings. She becomes “Pakistan’s Angel,” and is the daughter of an entire nation.
The Monkey’s new identity as Jamila Singer is a step backward for women’s rights. She actually goes back into purdah, and her traditional veil hides the deception of her true Christian identity.
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Jamila is soon invited to sing at the home of President Ayub, and the entire family is invited. They accept, despite evidence that he is crooked. When Jamila sings, she “dedicates herself to patriotism.”
Like Saleem, Jamila overlooks the ethics involved in associating with Ayub and instead goes with the flow. President Ayub, of course, came to power with Saleem’s movements of Zulfikar’s pepperpots.
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Like most of the nation of Pakistan, Saleem begins to fall in love with Jamila. He runs errands for her, driving his scooter through the city to the order of Santa Ignacia, a catholic nunnery. There he buys leavened bread for his sister, which she “hankered constantly.”
Similar to his attraction to Pia, Saleem develops an infatuation with Jamila. His conflicted identity confuses his feelings for his sister, and like the rest of Pakistan, he falls in love with her.
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Saleem soon finds out about the death of his grandfather, Aadam Aziz. The Indo-Pakistani relationship continues to deteriorate, leading to a closing of the boarders. Saleem and his family are unable to get to Agra to mourn Aadam and Reverend Mother, likewise, is unable to get to Pakistan.
The fact that her family is unable to mourn her husband’s death is fine by Reverend Mother. She refuses to mourn him herself and is glad to be rid of him. Reverend Mother still resents Aadam for insisting she exit purdah and his aversion to her religion, and she never again speaks his name.
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Stuck in the city, Saleem befriends a prostitute named Tai Bibi, who claims to be five hundred and twelve years old. The old prostitute is in complete control of her glands and is able to emit the smell of anyone on earth. Tai Bibi mimics the smells of all the women in Saleem’s life, ending with Jamila Singer, correctly identifying Saleem’s love for his sister.
Tai Bibi makes it possible for Saleem to interact sexually with his sister, mother, and Pia without negative repercussions and awkward interactions. Saleem’s relationship with Tai Bibi is further proof of Saleem’s struggle with his true identity.
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In the northern princedom of Kif, a prince, or Nawab, arranges the marriage of his daughter to Zafar, General Zulfikar’s son. Jamila Singer performs at their engagement party, where the Nawab’s son, Mutasim, falls in love with Jamila and vows to see her face.
This entire passage is a reflection of the patriarchal power over women. The Nawab’s daughter has no say in her marriage to Zafar, and Jamila is powerless once Mutasim vows to see her face. 
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As Jamila sings, a “hashashin wind” blows in from the north, making Saleem drowsy. The wedding guest begin to giggle uncontrollably and Zafar is so relaxed, he wets his pants. Mutasim attempts to get behind Jamila’s chadar, and Latif escorts her to a private room.
The “hashashin wind” is laden with marijuana, and it exacerbates Zafar’s incontinence and lowers their inhibitions. This is prime example of Rushdie’s use of magical realism in storytelling.  
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Saleem later goes to Jamila’s room to confess his love, and the hashashin wind has caused Mutasim to crawl in through Jamila’s window. Saleem stops him and Jamila turns down his advances, and at last, Saleem confesses his feelings to his sister.
Even Saleem’s inhibitions are gone, and he goes to Jamila. While he does save her from the advances of Mutasim, he is not exactly welcomed by Jamila either, and this makes very little difference to Saleem. 
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Jamila becomes upset with Saleem’s confession, but he explains to her how his love is not wrong. Since they are not biological siblings, their blood is not the same. As Saleem speaks, he knows that his feelings are wrong. He realizes that even though “what he is saying is the literal truth, there were other truths which had become more important because they had been sanctified by time.”
Despite their different blood, Saleem and Jamila are siblings, and Saleem does ultimately accept this. The realization that Jamila is his true sister reinforces his own true identity, and he grows even more ashamed of his “sister-love.”
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As Saleem leaves Jamila’s room, he hears the daughter of the Nawab scream. She has had a dream in which her fiancé, on their wedding night, wet their marital bed. Disgusted, she resolves never to reach puberty so that she may forever avoid marrying Zafar.
The Nawab’s daughter’s refusal to menstruate in order to avoid marrying Zafar is a representation of her power and her extreme desire to not become Zafar’s wife. Avoiding puberty is the only way she is able to voice her wishes.
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