The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 5, Chapter 1 : A City Visible but Unseen | Summary

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Summary

In London, Jumpy Joshi takes Saladin to see Muhammad Sufyan, owner of the Shaandaar Café. The commotion wakes up the family. Hind, Muhammad's wife, is not happy about having a man who looks like the devil in her home. Jumpy fills the others in on Saladin's fall, miraculous survival, and mutation. Mishal and Anahita Sufyan, Muhammad's daughters, convince their mother to let him stay in their home. The next day, Saladin calls Mimi Mamoulian, and she tells him he's been replaced on The Aliens Show with a white actor. Mimi reveals she's seeing disreputable Billy Battuta.

One day, Hind Sufyan learns in a magazine that Gibreel Farishta is alive and making a movie comeback. Saladin flies into a rage at the news. The raging causes his goat-like attributes to shrink. Unfortunately, Gibreel's movie comeback is derailed when producer Billy Battuta is arrested for an elaborate scam, along with Mimi.

Time passes, and Saladin's condition worsens; he develops a tail, long beard, and long, twisted horns. Jumpy Joshi continues having an affair with Pamela, who becomes pregnant. And Joshi isn't the only one in an illicit relationship. Mishal Sufyan is secretly sleeping with lawyer Hanif Johnson.

Although the Sufyans try to keep Saladin's presence under wraps, people gradually become aware of him. People nearby begin to see him in their dreams. "The Goatman" becomes something of a fad, then a political symbol. The police force sees this phenomenon as a "growing devil-cult among young blacks and Asians." When a serial killer nicknamed Granny Ripper begins to kill old women, suspicion of the minority community increases.

When Hind finds out her daughter is having an affair with Hanif Johnson, she is furious and blames Saladin. But getting rid of him proves problematic, because he has now grown to over eight feet and emits smoke from his nostrils. Hanif and Mishal contact a friend, deejay Pinkwalla of the Hot Wax Club. Pinkwalla allows Saladin to sleep in the nightclub after close. Late that night, Saladin fumes about Gibreel, whom he blames for his predicament. His rage melts the wax dummies stored in the club. Suddenly he is seized by terrible pains, and after they subside he falls asleep. When Mishal, Hanif, and Pinkwalla return, Saladin has regained his human shape, transformed "by the fearsome concentration of his hate."

Analysis

This chapter continues the several themes and motifs of the novel. The theme of metamorphosis and rebirth is ever-present as Saladin's transformation continues dramatically. But it is also present in the smaller transformations that take place. For example, the wax dummies in the Hot Wax Club all metamorphose into Gibreel before melting away. Pamela's hair turns white overnight the day she reveals her pregnancy to Joshi. In an odd parallel, this hair change echoes a detail from the orphan Ayesha's story in which her hair also suddenly turns white; like Ayesha, Pamela also lost her parents. The motif of parents and children surfaces here as Pamela's pregnancy is revealed. The fact that the child is Joshi's is another crushing blow for Saladin.

The theme of immigrant identity is developed through the introduction of the Sufyan family, especially Hind Sufyan. As a person who migrated because of her husband's job rather than for personal reasons, she represents those who immigrate unwillingly, or at least unhappily. She misses her own language, her home city, and the customs of her native land. She dislikes bringing her children up in England, because they are so influenced by English culture. This is in contrast with Saladin who wanted to leave India, wanted to go to England, and wholeheartedly embraced British culture. While Hind remains firmly identified with her home culture, Saladin constantly resists it. His first night in the Sufyan home, he fumes to himself, "You're not my people. I've spent half my life trying to get away from you."

The increasingly hostile attitude of the dominant culture to the immigrant community is emphasized here. The title of this part of the novel is "A City Visible but Unseen," suggesting that the story will focus on the way the culture tolerates but does not acknowledge the immigrant community, or perceives it without understanding it. There is a sense that the culture at large is turning away from recognizing the racial tensions bubbling up in the city. Saladin's replacement on the sitcom The Aliens Show is a white actor. This is an effort to make a show about outer-space aliens and less about other kinds of aliens.

The tension rises as the police look to the immigrant community for suspects in the Granny Ripper case. At the same time the Goatman becomes a symbol among minorities of cultural rebelliousness or resistance to power: "The symbol of the Goatman ... began to crop up on banners at political demonstrations." As immigrants are demonized by law enforcement, they begin to claim the symbolism of the devilish Goatman as a symbol of their empowerment.

The strangest part of this chapter, however, is the suggestion that Saladin's hate actually returns his humanity. As his hate for Gibreel overwhelms him, he is suddenly, and painfully, returned to his normal state. Perhaps hate, just as much as love, is a uniquely human emotion.

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