Magical Realism and the Voices of the Marginalised in Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children

Author: Md Abu Shahid Abdullah (University of Asia Pacific, Bangladesh)
Speaker: Md Abu Shahid Abdullah
Topic: Language, community, ethnicity
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


Language or the hegemony of language has often been associated with power struggle, and has been an instrument of domination and oppression for authorities. It conveys the malicious attitudes of the dominant without completely asserting their intention. Two groups having contradictory and opposing interests and ideologies — perpetrators and victims, colonisers and colonised, slave-owners and slaves, winners and losers, bourgeoisies and proletariats, and patriarchal authorities and female victims — cannot use the same mode of narrative. The marginalised needs an alternative language to depict their sufferings which should be able to express a non-dominant or non-Western viewpoint in contrary to dominant cultural discourse.

Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children depicts India’s journey from colonialism to independence, and parallels the personal and family history of the protagonist Saleem Sinai with the national history of India. In this novel, both the magical and the realistic world exist simultaneously and promote a complex viewpoint of truth and history referring to the social, political, cultural, and military histories of India and Pakistan, and in this regard magical realism helps to expose the social and political domination. Saleem’s magical power of entering into other people’s mind allows him to read and control their mind, and thus reveals events unknown to other people; it also reflects his desire to create his own universe. The use of magical realism allows him to tell his story, enables him to create his own version of history from his own marginalised perspective, and thus reinterprets the colonial and official version of history written from the perspectives of dominant authorities. By using magical realism, Rushdie was able to represent a different, but internally consistent, version of reality that met the needs of his novel to offer alternative visions of India, and to comment on the social and political problems and violence of postcolonial India. Most importantly, through magical realism, he gives an entire community a voice of their own.

Keywords: Hegemony, alternative language, marginalised, dominant authorities, magical realism