The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 3, Chapter 1 : Ellowen Deeowen | Summary



Rosa Diamond, 88 years old, thinks she sees William the Conqueror arriving on shore near her home. But it is really Gibreel Farishta, who has arrived on the snowy shore. Surprisingly, his breath—which is known to be terrible—is now fresh and sweet. Saladin is lying on the ground nearby. When Rosa approaches and checks to see if he is alive, she remarks on his bad breath.

The fall has changed them, although the narrator remarks, "In the matter of tumbles, I yield pride of place to no personage." In addition to the fact that Saladin is now the one with the "sulphurous" breath, Gibreel has acquired a golden glow and Saladin now has small horns under his bowler hat.

Rosa allows the two men to stay in her home. Alone in his room, Saladin decides to call home. A man with a familiar voice answers the phone, and Saladin, surprised, quickly says it is the wrong number and hangs up. Anger over his wife's infidelity overwhelms him. In another room, Gibreel paces, trying to avoid sleep.

Unbeknownst to Rosa, Saladin, and Gibreel, a nosy neighbor had spotted them arriving on shore and, believing them illegal immigrants, had reported them to the police. So as Saladin weeps angrily, and Gibreel paces, the police arrive. They arrest Saladin, who is not carrying his British passport and whose small horns are growing longer. They do not arrest Gibreel, who looks respectable in a smoking jacket and seems to have a glowing halo. As Saladin is taken away, Gibreel makes no attempt to stop the policemen.


The devilish and angelic aspects of Saladin and Gibreel that manifested during their fall have now become even more pronounced. Gibreel's breath is now sweet, while Saladin's is terrible. Gibreel has a glowing halo, while Saladin has horns (a popular image of the devil is a creature with horns and other goat-like attributes). Readers should keep in mind, however, which is the angel and which the demon is still an open question. In addition, Satan, the narrator, pops in to draw attention to himself by comparing their fall to his own: "In the matter of tumbles, I yield pride of place to no personage." In both Muslim and Christian traditions, Satan is an angelic creature who fell from heaven—somewhat farther than Gibreel and Saladin's fall from the plane.

Saladin's phone call home foreshadows several events to come. First, the voice is familiar to him, and readers will later learn that the voice is that of an old college friend. More importantly, the incident foreshadows the cruel trick Saladin will play on Gibreel later in the novel, in which he uses several different voices to make phone calls with the goal of ruining the relationship between Gibreel and Alleluia Cone.

Voices, and the way they relate to the transmission of messages, is another motif that connects the plots of the novel. Saladin's ability to use different voices is important, but so is the inability of Mahound to distinguish the voice of Shaitan from the voice of Gibreel. Rushdie's own role as storyteller and author (and one with a unique authorial voice) can also be loosely connected to the motif of voices.

The end of this chapter cycles back to the theme of immigrant identity, as the police arrive at an immigrant's house to investigate reports of illegal immigrants, and then arrest an immigrant. This aspect of the story is developed further in the following chapters.

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