Rushdie's Midnight's Children rode a crest of popularity in the early eighties .For its insistence that realism was no longer an adequate mode for describing today's world in which there was no broad consensus about the nature of reality, also fits in with Post Modernist impulses.
Rushdie has stated that the narrative method of Midnight's Children was inspired by traditional Indian story telling. One of the strange things about oral narrative- which I did look at very closely before writing Midnight's Children- is that you find there a form which id thousands of years old, and yet which has all the methods of the modernist novel, because when you have somebody who tells you a story at the length, a story which is told from the morning to the night, it probably contains roughly as many words as a novel, and during the course of that story it is absolutely acceptable that the narrator will every so often enter his own story and chat about it .
In Sanskrit poetics, there is a category of prose called Akhyayikas, which combines fact and fiction, and a category of fiction called Sakalakatha, which is a cycle of stories, which may have influenced Rushdie, at least unconsciously, and which surface consciously in The Satanic Verses and in the very title of Haroun and the Sea of Stories, directly recalling the Kathasaritsagara, and in its form. Indian myth is a part of the background of his novels. (In Midnight's Children, myth functions as a kind of shorthand to convey concepts though it is rarely fully and elaborately worked out, unlike in Joyce's Ulysses and Eliot's The Waste Land which use myth as a framework.)
He has also called himself 'a translated man'; the specific etymological (from the Latin) meaning of translation as 'bearing across' lies at the root of the dual kind of identity based on cultural negotiation, interaction and simulation; a hybrid, a man who remains a unity, 'makes both one, each this and that' (to echo John Donne's 'The Exstasie'). As such, Rushdie's kind of 'magic realism', whatever the affinities to Grass or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is uniquely his own. The immediate artistic imperative was to find a method to hit off reality different from restrictive orthodox realism of, says Zola. Rushdie himself put it thus:
I think of fantasy as a method of; producing intensified images of reality…. one thing that is valuable in fiction is to find techniques for making actuality more intense, so that you experience it more intensely in the writing than you do outside the writing.(Hoffenden 246)
The opening of Midnight's Children; is arresting and a fine introduction to the novel:
I was born in the city of Bombay… once upon a time .No, that won't do, there's no getting away from the date: I was born in Doctor Narlikar's Nursing Home one August 15th, 1947.And the time? The time matters, too. Well then at night. No, it's important to be more. A few seconds later,; my father broke his big toe; but his accident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clock I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies in dissolublident was a mere trifle when set beside what had befallen me in that benighted moment, because thanks to the occult tyrannies of those blandly saluting clock I had been mysteriously handcuffed to history, my destinies in dissoluble chained to those of my country.(9)
It begins like a fairy tale (once upon a time' is a leitmotif in the novel), suggesting the level of fantasy, but this is rejected in favour of actual historical dates and facts, suggesting a responsibility to history .At a simple level, the novel is the story of Saleem Sinai, a Bildungsroman, and at a deep level, the story of his country Saleem is important an individual, a representative of Independence and a literary mechanism. Rushdiengin has said:
Midnight's Children was written as a comic novel. It seemed to me that the comic epic was the natural form for India, and it was amazing that nobody was writing it then, not just in English, but in any language that I know of in India. It was as if the richest soil was virgin. (Scripsi interview 115)
The most prominent feature of Adam's physique is his extraordinarily large nose, the point at which the inner meets the outer world (suggesting intelligence- a pun on the Greek nous) through perception of the external world, both as breath and smell, it is the sign of a partiarch and the head of a 'dyunasty'. Adam is a westernized intellectual. He was educated as a doctor in Germany, but he could not have got there if for the British Empire. He is a product of Empire as well as a witness to its break-up. The scientific, rational knowledge, which Adam brings back. Provokes the virulent disapproval of Tai, the boatman, A representative of tradition .Tai abuses the doctor's pigskin (anathema to a Muslim) bag, the symbol of his knowledge:
makes one unclean just by looking at it…. From Abroad full of foreigners' tricks…. Now if a man breaks an arm that bag will not let the bonesetter bind it in leaves. (Midnight's Children 20)
Adam is called upon to treat Naseem, the daughter of the rich landowner Ghandhi, and he later marriage her.
Naseem is a representative of the traditional East. Her upbringing is extremely orthodox. She is hidden away in the house, guarded by women. Her husband is chosen by her father. She is given in marriage in traditional style, with dowry and ceremony. When Adam examined Naseem in her role as patient, he was permitted to see the supposedly afflicted parts of her body through a perforated sheet. the implication is that woman cannot be , at first, seen whole, but a more serious point emerges as Naseem appears to represent Bharat-Mata (Mother India)-that India can be seen, and understood, only in fragments Naseem as wife is transformed into a formidable figure, known by the title of Reverend Mother. She is a typical Indian (female) figure in this respect - dishing out or not dishing out food, fasting as protest (like Gandhi). Adam tries to change her character. He asks her to move during the sex act and come out of purdah. He fails in regard to the first but, though he succeeds in regard to the second.
Pressurized by Tai, Adam leaves-with Naseem, for Amritsar, from where they were to catch the frontier Mail to Agra (Adam had found employment there as a university medical officer). He arrives in Amritsar on 6 April 1919. Saleem's life and that of his family are linked to landmarks in Indian and world history.
Gandhi's call for self-rule and for the removal of untouchability, and his non-violent, civil disobedience campaign spurred the independence movement.
Here Rushdie is highlighting Gandhi's power, his magic, his ability to transform and influence. This is of a piece with the reactions and atmosphere of the announcement of Gandhi's death in the scene at the cinema hall (men prostrate on the floor weeping and the general shock and desolation indicated); with Lifafa Das' peepshow with 'untouchables being touched, educated people sleeping in large number on railway lines' (as in John Master's Bhowani Function); and with the leitmotif 'Gandhi dies at the wrong time' (actually, a pun; in the novel) which underlines regret and loss
Uma Parameswaran argues that 'the central issue' in all Rushdie's novels is 'the dichotomy of good and evil in ourselves and the world.'(1390) In Midnight's Children, evil can appear clear and unalloyed as in the case of the widow .The good, however, is mixed, whether it is represented by Saleem or Shiva. Good does not triumph over evil in the present, but, as the child suggests, it survives and may triumph in the future. Rushdie argues that optimism,
the Indian talent for non-stop self-regeneration is suggested by the fact that 'the narrative constantly throws up new stories, it teems; the form-multitudinous, hinting at the infinite possibilities of the countries (Imaginary Homelands 16) .
But it seems to me that this kind of optimism is more a product of the vitality of the rhythm of the novel and of its comic tone.
Midnight's Children is a fiction about fiction, an allegory about writing, a deconstruction of the text. Saleem is writing his novel and he relates it to Padma. She is not a reader but a listener, an audience. She is a pickle-maker (at Mary Pereira's Braganza pickle factory where Saleem is presently the supervisor.), and such a woman, in an Indian context, would be illiterate, at least in regard to reading to English. The story is always told to her, the transmission always oral. Hence the presence of retrospective and prospective summeries of the narrative at regular intervals. Padma is a native non-intellectual, but not unintelligent; the author is a formidable intellectual. Her judgements are comments not to be accepted as valid assessment, but sometimes they serve as a critique of Saleem's views and actions. Her credo as a critic is 'whatnextism', conventional, yet not to be discounted. She keeps the actual reader of the novel alert, critical, and prevents him/her from getting absorbed into the world of the novel; the novel, not mimetic, not presented as an illusion of the real world, remains, in a postmodern way, a self-reflexive artifact. But Padma is not only audience but also co-creator. The mythological associations of her name suggest that she is a sort of Muse. Padma has been named after the lotus goddess, commonly called 'The One Who Possesses Dung' by villagers. She is, in short, the dung-lotus. Saraswathi, the goddess of creative arts, is always portrayed as carrying a veena and seated on a lotus. Saleem needs Padma's support; his memory tends to fail without it. The writer and the audience collaborate to create the text. This is in keeping with postmodern belief as well as Anandavardhana's ninth-century aesthetics in Dhvanyaloka (the sahrdya, the critical yet appreciative reader, is his equivalent for the co-creator). It is important to note that Saleem also proceeds with his writing in Padma's absence (though admittedly seldom), yet with no difference in the quality of his writing, suggesting the inner compulsion of the writer and that the text can exist independently of the audience, the autonomy of art.
Midnight's Children differs from this earlier fiction in that most of the usual ground rules associated with the older from the fiction are broken: the unities of time and place and character are best, unstable: the narrative fluctuates uncertainly between first and third person; ordinary notions of fictional realism are subveried, natural law becomes unnatural or supernatural even though the novel is not in any straightforward sense religious or metaphysical; the novel is full of cryptic clues, archaic utterances and seems always on the point of offering some important explanation, of arriving at some goal or conclusion, but what this conclusion is we can never be quite sure. It is a novel of signs and gestures and sleight-of-hand, narrated with a passion for narrating rather than for clarifying meaning.