Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Midnight Children's Conference

Saleem's descriptions of the Midnight Conference mirror the current state of India and allow the reader to gain insight on Saleem's character. He originally desires for the Conference to benefit the rest of India; he believes the midnight children can make a difference. However, through his adult perspective, Saleem views his childish hopes as part of the "disease of optimism." Rather than helping India in creation, he ominously refers to their destruction.
Saleem wants the Conference to be "a sort of loose federation of equals, all points of view given free expression" (252). As a foil to Saleem, Shiva discounts Saleem's views. When Saleem claims that the Midnight Children must have a purpose, Shiva declares, "What purpose man? What thing in the whole sister-sleeping world got reason, yara? For what reason you're rich and I'm poor? Where's the reason in starving?" (252). Shiva's points resonate with me because I think about these questions often. How can there be reason and fairness in the world when people are starving? Rushdie raises the questions that many people in India during this time were probably asking themselves through Shiva.
I think it is interesting that Rushdie depicts interactions between Saleem and Shiva. By portraying Shiva as a realistic but violent poor person and Saleem as an idealistic but passive rich person, Rushdie displays how these viewpoints and personalities conflict in India. I think their interactions deeply influence the other children as well, although Rushdie does not write as much about this.
What do you all think about the Midnight Children's Conference and the relationship between Shiva and Saleem?


Samantha said...

I actually wrote about the relationship between Saleem and Shiva in my paper. I mentioned that Shiva represents the Hindu god of destruction and discussed how Rushdie suggests that Saleem represents Brahama, the god of creation. Because Rushdie presents the two characters as foils, he presents the relationship between creation and destruction as a dichotomy. Further, I believe that Saleem serves as a proponent of idealistic socialism, while Shiva is a more realistic capitalist.

In terms of the Midnight's Children Conference, I found one analogy that Saleem makes especially interesting. Saleem notes that on the moment during the Sino-Indian War of 1962 that China attacks India, the children of conference attack and accuse him of secrecy and egotism.

Olivia Celata said...

Although I see the apparent differences between Shiva and Saleem, I also found a few similarities between the characters. Obviously, both are Midnight's children, born at the exact time of India's independence; therefore, they have inherent powers. While Saleem has the gift of telepathy, Shiva has the abilities of an incredible fighter. Also, the fact that the two are switched at birth suggests the idea that they could be interchangeable characters at times. Sometimes in life, creation even comes out of destruction and vice versa, revealing that the two could be dependent on the other's existence.

When I researched Shiva a bit more, I noticed that besides being known as the Destroyer, he is also sometimes considered the god of sensuality. Evidence of this is portrayed in the novel, especially when Shiva seduces and has children by many Indian women, including Saleem's wife, Parvati.

Chloe said...

Like Samantha, I think the relationship between creation and destruction play a large role in the novel. Although I think there is a dichotomy between Shiva and Saleem, I feel that the two are also intertwined because Saleem doesn't know his true identity. Additionally, Shiva is represented in various ways, which I think ties in to the theme of cultural ambiguity.

Blaine said...

The Midnight's Children Conference symbolizes the first generation of Independent Children in India. Each child is different religiously, politically and socioeconomically and therefore represents the fragmented, diverse nation of India. Saleem's perceptions of the Midnight's Children gradually becomes more fatalistic and cynical as the story progresses. Saleen's 10 year old perspective of the Midnight's Children is that they will promote equality, fairness and transform the nation of Indoa for the better. However, for example, after the Emergency, Saleems perceives the children as "fools who ought-to-be-finishes-off".

Blaine said...

I think Blaine makes a compelling argument. Shiva and Saleem, although they are foils in many ways they are also very similar. At first, Saleem's perspective is quite positive and he truly believes the midnight's children, the new independent nation of India, can transform positively. Contray to Saleem, Shiva initiates the conference with an ominous but realistic perspective on his nation. Interestigly, as the story progresses, Saleem developed a more fatalistic perception on his nation. I believe Saleem and Shiva represent the intertwined, dualistic body of India. Together, both characters represent India as a whole.

C-Sted said...

I believe, Blaine, that you meant that you found Olivia's point compelling.

I too think that one's interpretation of Rushdie's novel revolves around the pairing of Shiva and Saleem. In my essay for Mrs. Quinet, I talked about the themes of division and unification. As Samantha said, Shiva and Saleem are clearly foils. One is rich, the other is poor. One creates, the other destroys. However, the relationship between the two characters is far more ambiguous than that. As Olivia already mentioned, the two are born at the exact same time. Furthermore, their mix-up at birth suggests a sort of intermingling of parentage. Is it possible that they are worthy of being considered each other's kin? Saleem even admits that he cannot live without Shiva. Overall, they are like Yin and Yang, complements to each other that necessarily exist as one whole. The divisions between them may very well be exaggerated by Western influences such as capitalism.