Literature Study GuidesMidnights ChildrenBook 1 A Public Announcement Summary

Midnight's Children | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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Midnight's Children | Book 1, A Public Announcement | Summary

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Summary

The chapter opens in January 1947 and is situated historically in descriptions of the end to colonial rule and the preparations for independence for colonized nations in Asia and Africa. After a brief digression in which Saleem objects to the visit of a doctor ordered by Padma, Saleem continues with the story of his birth, of Amina Sinai who, in her move to Delhi with her new husband, Ahmed Sinai, felt as though she was facing in the wrong direction. Amina, readers learn, made peace with her marriage despite her memories of her first husband. She promised to love Ahmed Sinai "bit by bit," learning to love him just as her father had fallen in love with her mother, piecemeal in his glimpses through the perforated sheet. Amina must view Ahmed through gaps in her disappointment and memories of her first husband.

Amina's preparation to announce her pregnancy was interrupted first by a visitor to the household, Ahmed Sinai's cousin Zohra, who baldly announced her disdain for "blackies" while falsely reassuring Amina that she wasn't included in that category. Amina was irritated by a guest in the house witnessing her need to flatter her husband for household money, and she was ashamed to be observed using the strategies of a street beggar to elicit her husband's sympathy.

Before Amina could share her big news, two men in suits arrived, warning of a fire in the warehouse district. Business partners of Ahmed, they had come to get him to accompany them in order to learn whose building was burning. All were aware that the Ravana gang, a group of anti-Muslim terrorists, extracts protection bribes from prospering Muslims. The business partners arrived on the scene and were relieved that it was not their wealth that was burning. Instead it was the Arjuna bicycle factory, a business named for a Hindu goddess in an attempt to conceal Muslim ownership. In the meantime, Lifafa Das, a Hindu street entertainer, had entered the muhalla, the Sinai's Muslim neighborhood that had only one known Hindu tenant. Lifafa Das was surrounded by Muslims intent on violence, and it was Amina who boldly opened her door and saved the threatened peepshow operator. As the crowd advanced, threatening Amina and dismissing her gesture of refuge, she made her announcement. Learning that Amina was pregnant, the crowd backed off.

Saleem has finally told Padma about his beginnings and about his mother's convictions. Amina is, after all, Aziz's daughter and once again, history repeats itself in her courageous and unconventional choice.

Analysis

Major themes continue to develop: notable fissures in the earth representing the movement for partition, the cracks in Saleem's personality, and the internal racial and religious rivalries threatening Indian independence. Demonstrating that prejudice works both ways, the gratuitous violence in a Muslim neighborhood when an unassuming Hindu passes through is matched with the threat to Muslim businesses by Hindu terrorists. Race riots are the common order of the day. India is internally divided, even before partition; there is irreconcilable civil strife based on ancient rivalries.

The story of Amina's adjustment to her marriage looks as though it might provide a conciliatory model, while at the same time, suggesting that change is constant. Amina is a transitional character. She learned to love her husband as her father did her mother, bit by bit. Also, however, she managed to recreate her first marriage, using dark blinds on her windows to summon the atmosphere of the basement and solicitously feeding her husband so well that he comes to resemble her first love, the paunchy poet. "Under the influence of a painstaking magic so obscure that Amina was probably unaware of working at it," she had created the dark basement of her first home and a husband who in his paunch and greasy, long hair replicated the style of her first husband. Finally, she saved Lifafa Das's life, demonstrating an independence of spirit as part of the family inheritance. Thus Padma learns that Amina Sinai is a woman of compassion, a potentially modern woman who is herself made of the fissures wrought by allegiances to two marriages and to radical historical change. Her feminine instincts on the one hand are her courage and conviction; they enable her to face the menace of a racist horde. On the other, they permit her to use demeaning tactics, to operate as a beggar or prostitute to collect her housekeeping money.

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