The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 7, Chapter 3 : The Angel Azraeel | Summary

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Summary

Dr. Uhuru Simba dies suspiciously in police custody, although the official story is he fell off his bed and broke his neck during a nightmare. After Simba's death, the Granny Ripper strikes again, twice. The immigrant community is incensed. When the true Granny Ripper is caught red-handed, a "bland, pale man of medium height and build, fair hair flopping forward over hazel eyes," people become suspicious that the police will try to cover up their mistake. They protest. The police deploy anti-riot forces.

Gibreel wanders along the streets of London, somewhere between dreaming and waking. He feels as though he is moving toward a final showdown with his adversary, who he believes has taken the face of Saladin. When he encounters some prostitutes and their pimps, Gibreel takes out his horn and blows it. A stream of fire emerges from the horn and consumes the pimps. This confirms to him he is an angel. He walks on, and the city seems to be aflame. He comes to the Shaandaar Café, which is burning. Suddenly he sees Saladin, who has run there out of fear. Gibreel has a sudden flash of lucidity as he realizes he told Saladin intimate details about his relationship with Allie that the anonymous voices on the phone later revealed.

Saladin runs into the Shaandaar Café, to try to save the Sufyans, and Gibreel pursues him, blowing the horn. Inside, a beam falls onto Saladin, and he is trapped. Rather than kill Saladin or leave him to burn, Gibreel rescues his adversary. Along with other survivors, Gibreel and Saladin are taken to the hospital. The next day, Pamela and Jumpy are found dead in the burned building of the Brickhall Community Relations Council.

Analysis

This scene is the climax of the novel, and as a result many of the novel's main concerns and themes come to a head. The news coverage of the protest is biased against the minority community; once again immigrants are demonized. Gibreel's grip on reality slips, blurring lines between reality and dream. Part of him is thinking about Allie, part is focused on Saladin, part is in the dream about Mahound, and part is in the dream about Ayesha. "Pilgrimage, prophet, adversary merge, fade into mists, emerge. As does she: Allie, Al-Lat." The prostitutes he meets in London merge with the twelve prostitutes of his Jahilia dreams. This is narrated in such a concrete way that once again Rushdie leaves the reader to decide which events to believe.

The theme of forgiveness is front and center in the climactic moments of the chapter. Gibreel realizes that Saladin was the one behind the terrible phone calls and blows the fatal horn as he chases him into the cafe. Yet once Saladin is powerless before him, he has to decide whether to forgive or not—to save the man who ruined his love for Allie or let him die. "When your enemies are at your mercy: how will you act then?" the text asks. Knowing Gibreel wants to kill him, Saladin begs: "Forgive me." And then the choice is made: "Gibreel Farishta steps quickly forward, bearing Saladin along the path of forgiveness."

The climax of the novel also answers the question asked in the first chapter: "Of what type—angelic, satanic—was Farishta's song?" The answer is: neither, and both. Gibreel was given the characteristics of an angel. Sometimes in the novel he acted like an angel, and sometimes he did not. Saladin was given the characteristics of a devil. Sometimes he acted like a devil, and sometimes he did not. The narrator points out how he tried "to shatter the mind of a fellow human being; and exploited, to do so, an entirely blameless woman." But still, in the end he "risked death, with scarcely any hesitation, in a foolhardy rescue attempt."

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