In Midnight’s Children, spittoons initially represent Old India but grow to also symbolize Saleem’s identity, which is intimately linked to his country given that he is one of the children of midnight. Rani gives Mumtaz and Nadir a silver spittoon when they are married, and they frequently play hit-the-spittoon, an old-fashioned game in which they try to spit tobacco juice into a spittoon from various distances, similar to the old men in the town of Agra. After Saleem’s family is killed during the Indo-Pakistani war, he is hit in the head with the exact same silver spittoon, and he instantly forgets his name and his entire identity. However, even with amnesia, Saleem knows that the spittoon is important, and he carries it with him throughout the war. To Saleem, the spittoon represents his identity, and he carries it with him until it is lost in Indira Gandhi’s Emergency.
The timeline below shows where the symbol Spittoons appears in Midnight’s Children. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1: Hit-the-Spittoon
...to the Hummingbird’s optimism and the streets of Agra, where old men sit and play hit-the-spittoon, attempting to spit tobacco into a receptacle from increasing distances. Saleem describes an old photograph... (full context)
Book 1: Under the Carpet
...with Nadir is the happiest time of her life. The two spend countless hours playing hit-the-spittoon, using a beautifully ornamented spittoon given to them as a wedding gift by Rani, who... (full context)
Book 2: How Saleem Achieved Purity
...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... (full context)
Book 3: The Buddha
...seem to track very much at all. Instead, Saleem sits under a tree with his spittoon, smiling. The irritation in Saleem’s camp mirrors the irritation present in Pakistan, as Sheikh Mujib,... (full context)
Book 3: Sam and the Tiger