The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 5, Chapter 2 : A City Visible but Unseen | Summary

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Summary

Alleluia Cone, the daughter of Polish immigrants, Otto and Alicia Cone, is surprised when Gibreel suddenly turns up on the snowy ground by her feet. For a moment, she thinks he is a vision. She carries him home, where he sleeps for a week. After seven days, he wakes up and the two make love. He tells her that he fell from the plane and survived, and she believes him: she, too, has visions.

Gibreel and Allie's sexual relationship is "electric," but the relationship deteriorates due to Allie's sense of impending disaster and Gibreel's annoying habits. She desires love but is also afraid of it; he is possessive. Eventually, he leaves. Gibreel becomes convinced that he is the archangel Gibreel. He walks the city streets, searching for lost souls and taunted by people who think he is insane. Along the way he is haunted by Rekha Merchant, who insults him and tells him Allie is just using him because she wants to have a baby.

After an unsuccessful attempt to work a miracle, Gibreel steps out into traffic to prove that he is, indeed, an angel. Injured, he is taken back to Allie's home by stuttering film producer S.S. Sisodia, whose rented limousine had crashed into Gibreel. Sisodia and Allie take Gibreel to Maudsley Hospital, where he is diagnosed with schizophrenia and given medication. Gibreel's illness only makes Allie love him all the more. Sisodia helps tend Gibreel during his recovery, and eventually offers him the role of the angel Gibreel in a series of movies. Allie thinks this is a bad idea and will only fuel Gibreel's delusion, but Gibreel wants to do it. His entrance into a life similar to his old life, escalated by Sisodia, Battuta, and Mimi, causes his relationship with Allie to become rockier. At a promotional event for the upcoming movies, he feels suspended between his movie role as Gibreel and the alternate, dream reality in which he is Gibreel. He ascends over London, and, in a vision, sees the goat-like Saladin Chamcha, his adversary.

He wakes up, again, on the doorstep of Allie Cone. She puts him to bed.

Analysis

The novel reveals Alleluia's background in small doses. In this chapter, information about her family's past allows the parents and children motif to further develop the theme of immigrant identity. Although Alleluia is described as extremely fair, it turns out that she is the daughter of immigrants. Her father had been in a concentration camp in Poland during World War II and had tried hard to fit into English culture—maybe too hard, anglicizing names and enthusiastically taking on new traditions. But the demons of his past persist, and he takes his own life in his 70s. This information sheds light on why Alleluia became so driven to pursue mountain climbing, but it also adds to the variety of immigrant stories Rushdie includes in the novel. Each one struggles in the space between identities, between cultures, between past and future. But the struggle is different for each individual.

The theme of belief and unbelief continues to evolve as the natural and supernatural explanations for Alleluia's and Gibreel's visions are in tension. Allie's visions are given a natural explanation: she's been having them ever since she climbed without oxygen to the top of Everest. The text introduces the reasonable and natural explanation that she just has these visions because she has some lasting brain damage from the lack of oxygen. Yet the narrative presents the visions as if they are real.

Much the same thing happens with Gibreel's visions. In this chapter, he is hospitalized and treated for schizophrenia. This presents a natural, medical explanation for his visions and dreams. Still, Gibreel's dreams are placed within the narrative in such as way that they cannot be easily distinguished from the natural. To further emphasize this theme, God himself addresses the topic of belief in one of Gibreel's visions: "You wanted clear signs of Our existence?" God asks. "We sent Revelation to fill your dreams."

The motif of roles emerges again toward the end of the chapter. Sisodia wants Gibreel to play the role of the archangel Gibreel in movies based on his own dreams. In these dreams, of course, Gibreel already feels that he is playing the role of the archangel. (Allie contemptuously suggests titles: "Gibreel in Jahilia, Gibreel Meets the Imam, Gibreel with the Butterfly Girl.")

At the end of the chapter, Gibreel sleeps, which leads into the next dream sequence.

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