1. Midnight''s Children is clearly a work of
fiction; yet, like many modern novels, it is presented as an
autobiography. How can we tell it isn''t? What literary devices are
employed to make its fictional status clear? And, bearing in mind
the background of very real historical events, can "truth" and
"fiction" always be told apart?
2. To what extent has the legacy of the British Empire, as
presented in this novel, contributed to the turbulent character of
3. Saleem sees himself and his family as a microcosm of what is
happening to India. His own life seems so bound up with the fate of
the country that he seems to have no existence as an individual;
yet, he is a distinct person. How would you characterise Saleem as
a human being, set apart from the novel''s grand scheme? Does he
have a personality?
4. "To understand just one life, you have to swallow the world
... do you wonder, then, that I was a heavy child?" (p. 109). Is it
possible, within the limits of a novel, to "understand" a life?
5. At the very heart of Midnight''s Children is an act of
deception: Mary Pereira switches the birth-tags of the infants
Saleem and Shiva. The ancestors of whom Saleem tells us at length
are not his biological relations; and yet he continues to speak of
them as his forebears. What effect does this have on you, the
reader? How easy is it to absorb such a paradox?
6. "There is no escape from form" says Saleem (p. 226); and
later, he speaks of his own "overpowering desire for form" (p.
317). Set against this is the chaos of Indian life which is
described in such detail throughout the book. How is this coherence
achieved? What role does mythology play in giving form to events in
7. "There is no magic on earth strong enough to wipe out the
legacies of one''s parents" (p. 402). Saleem is speaking here of an
injury; but has he inherited anything more positive? Is there
anything inherited which aids rather than hinders him?
8. Saleem''s father says of Wee Willie Winkie, "That''s a cheeky
fellow; he goes too far." The Englishman Methwold disagrees: "The
tradition of the fool, you know. Licensed to provoke and tease."
(p. 102). The novel itself provokes and teases the reader a good
deal. Did you feel yourself "provoked"? Does the above exchange
shed any light on Rushdie''s own plight since The Satanic
9. How much affection is there between fathers and sons in
Midnight''s Children? Why is Saleem so drawn to
father-figures? What does he gain from his many adopted
10. "What is so precious to need all this writing-shiting?" asks
Padma (p. 24). What is the value of it for Saleem?
11. "...is not Mother India, Bharat-Mata, commonly thought of as
female?" asks Saleem; "And, as you know, there''s no escape from
her" (p. 404). Elsewhere he speaks of "...the long series of women
who have bewitched and finally undone me good and proper" (p. 241).
To what extent are women "held for blame" for Saleem''s
12. Saleem often appears to be an unreliable narrator, mixing up
dates and hazarding details of events he never witnessed. He also
draws attention to his own telling of the story: "Like an
incompetent puppeteer, I reveal the hands holding the strings..."
(p. 65). How much faith do you put in his version of events?
13. Saleem pleads, "...believe that I am falling apart." (p.
37); he never arrives at a certain image of himself without being
thrown into chaos again (e.g. p.164-165). But a child on an
advertising hoarding is described as "flattened by certitude" (p.
153). Is there, then, value in uncertainty? What is it?
14. With the birth of Saleem''s giant-eared son, history seems
about to repeat itself; but Saleem senses that this time round,
things will be different. How have circumstances changed?
15. Midnight''s Children is a novel about
India, and attempts to map the modern Indian mind, with all its
contradictions. In your discussions, how much difficulty have you
had in addressing the novel from a Western perspective? Is there an
''otherness'' which makes it hard to assimilate, or are the
novel''s concerns universal and easily understood?