The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 3, Chapter 2 : Ellowen Deeowen | Summary

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Summary

Gibreel is trapped in a dreamlike trance as the police leave, and this condition persists as Rosa begins to tell him stories about her life in Argentina. There, she lived with her unromantic husband Don Enrique Diamond. Her stories often include ostrich hunter Martín de la Cruz. At one point, Rosa tells Gibreel he looks just like Martín de la Cruz. When he looks out the window, an ostrich is running down the beach outside.

On Rosa's 89th birthday, Gibreel and Rosa go dancing to celebrate. However, the next day, Rosa becomes feverish, having overexerted herself on the dance floor. On her death bed, her fever dreams appear as apparitions to Gibreel. He feels as if he is being "held prisoner and manipulated by the force of Rosa's will." In one of her feverish stories—one in which she and Martín had a sexual encounter—Gibreel feels himself playing the role of Martín de la Cruz. Her story, however, is not one story, but many possibilities, some in which the two make love and some in which she refuses his advances.

After Rosa dies, Gibreel leaves the house. Encountering a boathouse, he goes inside. Rosa, as she appeared to him in her memory, is there. They lie down together on the ground.

Analysis

This interlude develops an aspect of Gibreel's character that will be a feature of his story line throughout the novel—his difficulty separating story from reality. Just as he enters consciously into his dream of Mahound as the angel Gibreel, in this episode he enters into the memories of Rosa Diamond as she recounts them. When she tells him about the ostrich hunter Martín de la Cruz, he sees an ostrich appear. The text emphasizes that he feels trapped by the stories: he "felt her stories winding round him like a web, holding him in that lost world." And even after Rosa's death, Gibreel remains ensnared by her stories, having a vision of the young Rosa in the boathouse as he leaves her.

Gibreel's career as an actor certainly enables the way he enters these stories and becomes characters in them. His ability to portray different characters is the reason for his Bollywood fame. Yet his ability to separate himself from the characters he portrays is eroding. Who is he, really? How much of his identity is shaped by stepping into and living the roles he is given?

These questions may be introduced here, but Rushdie comes back to them often. Saladin, who develops goat-like characteristics, transforms into a caricature of a devil partly due to the perception of others that immigrants are a less than human and a source of evil. He lives the role in which others have cast him, in the most literal way. Later in the novel, a group of prostitutes who imitate the twelve wives of Mahound for professional purposes begin to take on their characteristics in real life. They, too, live in roles they play. How do all humans tend to do this?

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