East, West

The Grammar of the Idols College

The Grammar of the Idols

Salman Rushdie’s “The Prophet’s Hair” reflects on religious practice and worship as a number of people cross paths with a sacred relic that has been stolen from their mosque. A vial, containing a strand of hair from Muhammad, is recovered by Hashim only to incite chaos and suffering amongst the nonbelievers that it encounters. It can be easily argued that this interpretation is the basis of the story’s message. However, the assumption that the idolatry of the relic is the sole destructive force in the story overlooks another possibility. The second idol woven into the text is money. A grammatical analysis of “The Prophet’s Hair” reveals that money, not the relic, acts as the destructive force driving the plot as it transforms from normative grammar and redefines itself in varying parts of speech.

Grammatically both idols are nouns, but the ability for money to transform into an adjective and verb suggests that its power extends beyond that of the relic. The relic appears primarily as a noun. The first introduction to this idol claims that Hashim “noticed a small vial” (2856). The use of the word “vial” as a descriptor for the relic is repeated numerous time throughout the text. In addition to “vial” the...

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