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What is the Purpose of Parallelism Between Fantasy and Reality?
“‘Khattam-Shud,’ he said slowly, ‘is the Arch-Enemy of all Stories, even of Language itself. He is the Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech. And because everything ends, because dreams end, stories end, life ends, at the finish of everything we use his name. ‘It’s finished,’ we tell one another, ‘it’s over. Khattam-Shud: The End’”(Rushdie 39). In Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, the antagonist Khattam-Shud is introduced as the “the end” to all things. Khattam-Shud is the embodiment of silence and thrives for absolute command, control, and censorship. Much of the fictional character, Khattam-Shud, is developed by parallelism throughout the chapters and his purpose is demonstrated through the hidden political allegorical attacks throughout novel that showcase the inequality and unfairness in non-egalitarian totalitarian societies. It is the persona of Ayatollah Khomeini which Khattam-Shud mirrors and his Alifbay counterpart, Mr.Sengupta to further develop the themes of oppression and censorship that accompany Khattam-Shud’s character.
To begin, the character of Khattam-Shud is first introduced as a counterpart from Alifbay as Mr. Sengupta, “who [hates] stories and storytellers” (Rushdie 20). Throughout the first chapter, it is established that Mr. Sengupta not only despises stories but believes that, “[stories] will come to no good” (Rushdie 20). Through the character of Mr. Sengupta one can catch a glimpse into the type of character Khattam-shud develops to be, as Mr. Sengupta despises stories and imagination of any sort. While Mr. Sengupta does not see the purpose in storytelling he makes no real effort to rid Alifbay of storytelling, however his phrase, “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” (Rushdie 22), leaves Rashid unable to fabricate any stories which although has the same intentions is different from Khattam-Shud who takes his detestation to extreme in which he plans on poisoning all stories in the Sea of Stories and abolish everyone’s right to speech. Nevertheless, this brief parallelism between characters allows for the roots of censorship and oppression to take place which are better established as the story progresses.
Secondly, Khattam-Shud’s thirst for complete control and the eradication of stories exhibits his craving for totalitarian power over the world of stories. This is apparent when Khattam-Shud says, “You’d have done better to stick to facts, but you were stuffed with stories…stories make trouble. An Ocean of Stories is an Ocean of Trouble” (Rushdie 155). Here Khattam-Shud expresses his resentment and bitterness regarding free speech, revealing as to why he is poisoning the Ocean of Stories and showing his disdain for them by relating “stories” and “trouble” together. Furthermore through the silence laws which depict, “In the old days the cultmaster, Khattam-Shud, preached only hatred towards stories and fancies and dreams; but now he has become more severe and opposes speech for any reason at all. In Chup city the schools and law-courts and theatres are all closed now, unable to operate because of the silence laws,”( Rushdie 101) it is evident Khattam-Shud not only plans to censor speech but to rob the society of it all together much like the oppression and censorship present with Ayatollah Khomeini who issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie in attempts to silence him. Khattam-Shud’s yearning for totalitarianism like Khomeini can also be exhibited when he declares that, “the world is for controlling. Inside every single story, inside every Stream in the Ocean, there lies a world, a story-world, that I cannot Rule at all” (Rushdie 161). It is through the allusion to Ayatollah Khomeini that Khattam-Shud’s character can be explored as the use of allusions not only evoke images as to what the essence of the characters is like but it also contributes to having a deeper understanding of Khattam-Shud because of the implied assumptions and references made from Khattam-Shud to real-life figure Ayatollah Khomeini.
Furthermore, it is evident that even the characteristics of Khattam-Shud mirror and depict those of Ayatollah Khomeini’s. Through the resemblances and parallelism of the two, Salman Rushdie is able to portray Khattam-Shud as, “ the arch-enemy of all stories,” (Rushdie 79) who poisons the Ocean of Stories much like Khomeini, who in turn poisons the minds of those around him. It is also through Khattam-Shud’s continuous detestation for storytelling that he mirrors Khomeini’s repugnance for Salman Rushdie’s work The Satanic Verses. Additionally, it is ironic that both oppressors enforce and impose rules upon others to obtain more power, like Khattam-Shud’s Silence laws to Khomeini’s fatwa, that they have no intention of enforcing upon themselves. “Isn’t it typical, couldn’t you have guessed it, wouldn’t you have known: the Grand Panjandrum himself does exactly what he wants to forbid everyone else to do. His followers sew up their lips and he talks and talks like bily-o”(Rushdie 154). This passage shows that interestly enough, Khattam-Shud oppose his own set of laws that command for complete silence as he speaks freely within the novel. Through the attributes of Khattam-Shud reflected by Khomeini, it is evident that in Haroun and the Sea of Stories the Land of Chup is controlled by a corrupt political power figure who longs control through the demise and ceasing of all speech, further conveying the inequity in non-egalitarian societies of both real-life and fantasy.
Ultimately, the role of Khattam-Shud’s character reveals and addresses the injustices taking place in totalitarian non-egalitarian societies through the allegories and the correspondence of similar character traits between that of real-life figures and of fictional characters. Beginning from resemblance between Khattam-Shud and Mr. Sengupta’s to Khattam-Shud’s urge to oppress and control like Ayatollah Khomeini, the development of Khattam-Shud’s character and his role within the novel is better illustrated by juxtaposing the characters to others from both fantasy and reality.
- Rushdie, Salman. Haroun and the Sea of Stories. London :Granta Books in association with Penguin Books, 1991. Print.
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