The Satanic Verses | Study Guide

Salman Rushdie

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The Satanic Verses | Part 9, Chapter 1 : A Wonderful Lamp | Summary

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Summary

Eighteen months have passed since the fire at the Shaandaar Café. Saladin receives word that his father is dying of cancer and is surprised to learn that he wants to see his father once more before the old man dies. He takes a flight home to India—a flight on which movie producer S.S. Sisodia is also traveling—overcome by conflicting emotions about his father. Once he arrives, Saladin learns that although his father knows he is very ill, no one has told him it is cancer. Saladin insists they tell him. The two men are able to reconcile before Chamcha dies.

Saladin returns to his father's house after the funeral and takes up the magic lamp, which along with the rest of the estate, is now his. He rubs it, and Zeenat Vakil suddenly arrives to visit him and extend her friendship as Salman grieves. Soon he begins a relationship with her and adopts his original name, Salahuddin. Meanwhile, Gibreel has also returned to India and is trying to make movies based on his dreams and experiences, using his own money. This proves to be a terrible idea. Gibreel's general instability and unhappiness (having lost Alleluia and a lot of money) finally push him over the edge. When Alleluia is in Bombay on her way to a mountain, Gibreel throws her off the roof of a skyscraper (the same one Rekha Merchant threw herself and her children from). Movie producer S.S. Sisodia is found in Gibreel's apartment, shot dead.

Avoiding arrest for the time being, Gibreel suddenly appears at Saladin's house and tells Saladin a rambling and incoherent "story" of how he killed Allie and Sisodia. Then he picks up the "wonderful lamp" and gives it a little rub. He pulls out a revolver, and, telling Saladin he can't bear living with his illness, he shoots himself.

Some time later, Saladin looks out of the window on the Arabian Sea. The moonlight has "created the illusion of a silver pathway ... like a road to miraculous lands." Zeeny is there, and, deciding to put the past behind him, he turns from the view and follows her out of the room.

Analysis

Despite Rushdie's often surprising and busy narrative style, the final chapter gives readers a satisfying sense of closure. The characters (all those who are still alive) get some kind of conclusion, even if it is tragic. Some of the movies Gibreel is engaged in making are based on his dreams, so even the subplots of the novel get a mention in the concluding section. Ayesha's pilgrimage into the Arabian Sea is beautifully evoked by the image of the silver pathway shining on the surface of the water.

The major themes of the novel are also brought to a close. The theme of forgiveness, such an important part of the novel's climax, emerges in the reconciliation between Saladin and his father. The theme of immigrant identity is tied up in shifting Saladin's sense of self and his reconciliation not just with his father, but also with other elements of his Indian identity. The theme of metamorphosis and rebirth emerges as Saladin decides to set his old self aside once again and start fresh. The theme of belief and unbelief emerges in a religious context as Chamcha describes his thoughts on his own death. It also connects to Saladin's statement that he cannot believe in "fairy tales" any more and to the way the wonderful lamp seems to give both Saladin and Gibreel a way forward: The lamp brings Zeeny back to Saladin and a revolver to Gibreel.

The conclusions of Gibreel and Saladin's stories are quite different, but readers should be used to Rushdie's contradictions and contrasts by this time. Gibreel, like the Imam of Desh, stops time. He chooses death over rebirth. Saladin embraces change and its agent, time. He chooses rebirth.

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