The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 3, Chapter 5 : Ellowen Deeowen | Summary



On a train to London, Gibreel is again seized by the fear that God is punishing him for losing his faith. Feeling unmoored from reality, he is encouraged by the signs stating the train's rules and regulations, such as "no smoking." He looks forward to returning to his life—including the search for Alleluia. He says her name aloud, and the other passenger in the compartment repeats it, adding "Hosanna, my good sir, and amen." The well-dressed stranger, who introduces himself as John Maslama and recognizes Gibreel from his movies, tells Gibreel that he is "strictly non-denominational" and enjoys Gibreel's work because he portrays all sorts of deities.

It soon becomes clear that Maslama is a raving lunatic, and as he raves he accidentally knocks the hat from Gibreel's head. At this, the glowing halo around Gibreel's head is revealed, and Maslama falls to his knees and begs forgiveness. Gibreel decides to play along, saying he has come to judge the human race, but Maslama must not tell anyone this secret. Maslama agrees, and Gibreel finds a new compartment to sit in. As Gibreel looks out the window, trying to make sense of all that has happened, Rekha Merchant appears on her magic carpet outside and gives him a small wave of her hand.

Outside London, Alleluia Cone talks to a class of teenage girls about mountain climbing. She tells them that ghosts of previous climbers sometimes haunt the mountaintops, and that she'd encountered one herself: Maurice Wilson, a yogi who had died while attempting the climb. She tells them of her climb up Everest, and the ecstatic visions she'd had at the top. She doesn't tell them about her feet, which hurt the entire time due to fallen arches and which caused Gibreel to call her "his little silkie" and compare her to the Little Mermaid.

When Gibreel gets to London, he is haunted by Rekha Merchant intermittently as he exits the train and makes his way throughout London on the Underground. The Underground itself seems like a labyrinth, and London feels strange and confusing. He becomes exhausted and finally faints in a park. Alleluia Cone finds him.


Gibreel's sense of disorientation peaks after he leaves Rosa Diamond's house and boards a train to London. Unlike Saladin, he does not feel at home in England, and his discomfort is accentuated by the way his dream life, Rosa's stories, and reality have all become a jumble. His distress is temporarily diminished by the presence of a "small series of prohibitions and instructions" found on the train. These rules are "manifestations of law" and orderliness that are comforting for a person who feels that all the normal rules of reality have disappeared.

However, once Gibreel exits the train and finds himself in London, all sense of comfort is gone. The city is large and complex and to Gibreel it seems maze-like. The boundaries between visions and reality once again blur as Rekha Merchant follows him around the city as he becomes hopelessly lost. As it turns out, though, visions of the dead are a common experience for both Gibreel and Allie Cone, and perhaps are one reason they are well-matched. Maurice Wilson is the main visitor to Alleluia's consciousness, and he will appear on and off for her just as Rekha Merchant regularly appears to Gibreel.

Allie's painful feet are both a mundane chronic ailment and a vehicle for metaphor. The fact that the beautiful and successful mountain climber has fallen arches is jarring because it lacks any kind of glamour. But Gibreel elevates this unglamorous condition by comparing it to the bittersweet plight of the Little Mermaid, who gives up her home to live on land but must walk on painful legs for the rest of her life. By characterizing Allie in this way, he romanticizes her and perhaps sees something of the immigrant in her, something that feels familiar.

After he faints, Gibreel enters the second dream sequence.

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