The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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



In their police van, the policemen and immigration officers strip Saladin of his pajamas and find that his lower half is now the lower half of a goat and that his genitals are enlarged. He's embarrassed to find that he is defecating like a goat, too. Small pellets of feces appear on the floor, and the policemen and officers force him to eat them as they laugh and joke. After a while, the talk turns to surveillance techniques and the need for more surveillance in the name of liberty and freedom.

Eventually Saladin convinces them to look him up on the computer, and they find out he is a British citizen. Panicked, they knock him out in order to concoct an excuse for how they've treated him. He wakes up in a hospital, terribly ill with pneumonia. His physiotherapist, a black woman named Hyacinth Phillips, pummels him in the torso as part of his therapy. Saladin sees that he is still half goat, and before long he realizes that all the people in this hospital have mutated. Some are part animal, and some have other mutations; one woman has glass skin. Another patient informs Saladin that the transformations have occurred because "They have the power of description, and we succumb to the pictures they construct."

The patients band together to make an escape from the hospital. After the breakout, Saladin makes his way toward London.


The theme of immigrant identity (and its intersection with the theme of metamorphosis and rebirth) is front and center in this chapter as Saladin is taken into police custody. He is mistreated in shocking fashion as he continues to become more and more goat-like. Placing Saladin's transformation in the context of being a suspected illegal immigrant makes it clear that the transformation is, among other things, a metaphor for how immigrants are often perceived. The officers see Saladin as something less than human—as an animal—and he behaves more and more like an animal. Because his transformation is into an animal traditionally associated with the devil, the metaphor also suggests that immigrants are seen as agents of evil, responsible for society's ills.

The power of perception and language to shape reality is further explored as echoed in the statement "They have the power of description, and we succumb to the pictures they construct." When a person or group is described as subhuman, demonic, or evil, these descriptions have power to affect the identity and actions of that person or group. In the genre of magical realism, this can happen in a very literal way, but Rushdie is making an important point about the power of language. This point will be revisited later in the novel as the immigrant community of London is collectively demonized by the authorities and Saladin's goat-like self becomes a symbol of defiance against this demonization.

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