Midnight’s Children Summary

Salman Rushdie

Midnight’s Children

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Midnight’s Children Summary

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Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children is a 1981 magical realism novel revolving around India’s independence. The novel is semi-autobiographical, though the main character and Rushdie stand-in has magical powers. Midnight’s Children was critically acclaimed and won many literary awards, including the Booker Prize and the special Booker of Bookers Prize, which commemorated the award’s 25th anniversary.

The protagonist, Saleem Sinai,is born on August 15th, 1947, at the exact moment India gains its independence from Britain. Thirty years later, Saleem feels as if he is dying, so he decides to tell the story of his life to his lover, Padma. Saleem begins the story of his grandfather, Aadam Azizwho lived in Kashmir, India. In Saleem’s story, Aadam is a doctor caring for a woman named Naseem, who becomes Saleem’s grandmother. When Aadam is treating her, propriety dictates that she must stay behind a sheet.

The sheet was also a trick by Naseem’s father, who wanted Aadam to fall in love with his daughter. It works, and he finally gets to see her face when she has a headache. Naseem and Aadam marry. They move to Amritsar, where Aadam witnesses for Indian independence from British rule. These protests are violently suppressed and end with the protesters being massacred. After having three daughters and two sons, Aadam becomes a follower of an activist named Mian Abdullah. Abdullah is assassinated for his beliefs, and Aadam agrees to take in his assistant, Nadir Khan. Naseem labels Nadir as cowardly and protests his staying in their house.

Ultimately, Nadir Khan and Aadam’s daughter Mumtaz fall in love. They marry, but even after two years, fail to consummate their marriage. Nadir Khan is found to be hiding at Aadam’s and flees, leaving his wife behind. Mumtaz  remarries Ahmed Sinai, a merchant. Mumtaz decides to change her name to Amina and she and her husband move to the large city of Delhi. Amina is soon pregnant, and visits a fortune teller to learn about her future child. The prophecy about her child states that he will never be older or younger than his country. Due to some complications with Ahmed’s factory being burned down by terrorists, he decides to move them to Bombay.

In Bombay, Mumtaz and Ahmed buy a house from an Englishman named William Methwold. One of their neighbors is an entertainer named Wee Willie Winkie who lives with his pregnant wife, Vanita. Unbeknownst to Willie, Vanita had an affair with Methwold and he is the father of her child. Both Vanita and Mumtaz go into labor and have their children at midnight, though Vanita does not survive childbirth. The midwife who has recently had an affair with a socialist, decides to switch the babies so that the poor baby can live a life of privilege and vice versa. Saleem is not truly the biological child of Mumtaz and Ahmed, but of Vanita and Methwold. The midwife becomes Saleem’s nanny out of guilt.

Saleem’s birth is given large press coverage, since it coincided with Indian independence. Saleem is strange looking, with a cucumber-shaped nose and blue eyes. One day, Saleem is punished for hiding out in the bathroom, where he accidentally witnesses his mother using the toilet. She forces him to be silent for a day, wherein he notices he can hear the thoughts of others. Ultimately, he realizes he can also hear the thoughts of those children born in the same hour as him. He also finds out that they all have powers; the strongest ones being born closest to midnight. Shiva, the child with whom he was switched at birth, is physically strong and gifted in fighting.

Saleem loses a part of his finger and is rushed to the hospital. When the doctors obtain his blood type, it is revealed that Saleem cannot be Ahmed and Mumtaz’s biological son. Saleem’s nanny admits she switched the two boys at birth. Ahmed, now an alcoholic, becomes violent at hearing the news, which prompts Amina to take Saleem and his sister to the recently created nation of Pakistan to live with her sister.

After Ahmed dies, the family moves back to Bombay. At this time, India is embroiled in a war with China. Saleem’s large nose has been giving him trouble all his life, so he gets an operation to fix it. After the operation, he is no longer telepathic, but has an enhanced sense of smell and he can sense people’s emotions. After India loses to China, the family moves back to Pakistan. There, his entire family is killed, save his sister Jamila, during a war between India and Pakistan.

Saleem loses his memory after being hit in the head. He ends up in the army, although he is not quite sure how he ended up there. Saleem witnesses many war crimes and barbarisms, and he escapes into the Bangladesh jungle. There, Saleem recovers some of his memory, but does not recover his name until he meets Parvati-the-witch, who is another one of midnight’s children. She helps him recall his name. They retreat to a magicians’ ghetto.

Parvati wants Saleem to marry her, which he refuses to do. She then has an affair with Shiva, who is now a famous war hero. Shiva and Parvati have relationship troubles, and Parvati returns to the magicians’ ghetto, pregnant and unmarried. Saleem agrees to marry her. Indira Gandhi, who is the prime minister of India, has begun sterilization camps to decrease India’s population. She also destroys the magicians’ ghetto. Parvati dies after childbirth, and Shiva captures Saleem to take him to a sterilization camp. There, all of midnight’s children are sterilized, as to protect the prime minister from their powers. Gandhi does not win her first election.

All of midnight’s children are set free, and Saleem heads out to find Aadam, Parvati’s son. He finds him with a snake charmer they knew in the ghetto, and the three travel to Bombay. There, Saleem eats some chutney which reminds him of his nanny. He tracks down the chutney factory his former nanny owns, and there he meets Padma. He decides to marry her, but is certain that on his thirty-first birthday, the anniversary of India’s independence, he will die and explode into dust.