Saturday, April 9, 2011
Gandhi's Absence in Midnight's Children
I am intrigued by Gandhi's pronounced absence from Book I of Midnight's Children, which covers the years and events leading to Indian Independence in 1947. Throughout the world, Gandhi has become a symbol of tolerance and nonviolent protest; he was the hero of India's independence. Therefore, it makes no sense that Rushdie would leave out such an important and beloved character without specific reasons to do so. It is possible that Rushdie simply didn't see the use in celebrating an individual whose reputation was already so spotless. Perhaps Rushdie didn't feel the need to put effort into retelling such a popular story. However, I think that a large deal of Gandhi's absence must be attributed to Saleem himself. After all, Saleem is telling us his story; within this metafictional construction, the omission is truly Saleem's, rather than Rushdie's. Perhaps Saleem sees himself as a competitor or potential replacement for Gandhi. Saleem holds hundreds of millions of people together, just as Gandhi managed to do in the midst of a colonial crisis. Now, after independence and with Gandhi killed, the stage is set for Saleem and the rest of the Midnight's Children to take the reins and serve as models for the character and society of India. The implication that Saleem is focused on himself reinforces that concept of the postmodern anti-hero who has ulterior motives and cannot be trusted as a narrator.