Summary of "Love in Bombay"
Saleem, like most adolescent boys, begins to develop a crush on a girl in his neighborhood. This girl is an American named Evelyn Lillith Burns, a plastic gun toting, bicycle-riding whirlwind of a child. Unfortunately for Saleem, Evelyn likes his friend Sonny instead. Yet Sonny likes Saleem’s sister Brass Monkey. Both women spurn the boys’ advances. Brass Monkey and her friends beat up Sonny, and Saleem tries to get Sonny to talk to Evelyn for him, but Evelyn instead falls for Sonny. Saleem tries to impress her by learning how to ride a bike, but she still ignores him.
Enraged at her rejection, Saleem uses his powers to force himself into her mind. He drives deeper until he sees an image of Evelyn holding a blood-soaked knife near her dead mother. Evelyn, feeling that Saleem is inside her mind, tries to mentally force him out. Finally, she pushes him down the hill where he lands in the middle of a language march. He enrages the crowd by accidentally mocking their language. This incites the protestors to take to the streets and become violent. This causes the state of Bombay to be partitioned.
Summary of "My Tenth Birthday"
Saleem now knows that he has the ability to go deep into peoples’ minds. He uses this power to find the other children born at the hours of midnight on August 15,1947. All of them have magical powers, so he holds a mental conference called the Midnight Children’s Conference. Shiva wants himself and Saleem to be the leaders because they are the “oldest” and most powerful, with Shiva’s ability being his massive knees that can kill men. Saleem wants it to be a democracy and has a few allies on his side, namely Parvati-the-witch. There is one child, Soumitra, who has the ability to time travel. He warns that the Midnight Children’s Conference is pointless and will do no good, but the children ignore him and proceed discussing how they should use their powers.
Summary of "At the Pioneer Café"
Amina begins receiving strange phone calls, and Saleem notices how she becomes nervous every time the phone rings. Using his powers, he follows her around the city one day. Amina stops at the Pioneer Cafe, a restaurant where many actors try to find work from the nearby film studio executives. Once Amina goes inside, she sees that Amina is being affectionate with Nadir Khan, her first husband. Now, however, he goes by Qasim Khan, the official candidate of the Communist party. Saleem becomes incredibly upset that his mother is having an affair, but he keeps his emotions in check at this time.
Summary of "Alpha and Omega"
Though Saleem is the unofficial leader of the Midnight Children’s Conference, his importance in his daily life is lacking. A geography teacher makes fun of Saleem’s face, noting how his nose sticks out like India’s peninsula. He then rips out a chunk of Saleem’s hair when Saleem’s nose drips on his hand. He then loses part of a finger at a school dance. When his parents take him to the hospital, they are asked to donate blood. However, their blood types, A and O, do not match his. It is at this time that Ahmed and Amina discover they are not Saleem’s biological family. Ahmed takes this out on Amina and accuses her of an affair.
Throughout these chapters in the present day, Padma returns begrudgingly to attend to Saleem. However, Saleem’s frailty is getting to him. He becomes extremely ill and asks to see his son. An unnamed woman brings the young child to Saleem’s bedside. In his delirium, he becomes terrified at “the Widow” and how she destroyed all the children by ripping them apart.
Evelyn Lillith Burns is a character full of symbolic complexities. Her name has religious connotations, with “Evelyn” being a play on “Eve,” who is commonly known as the mother of mankind. Yet Evelyn’s middle name Lillith is an allusion to a figure in Jewish mythology. In the tales, Lilith was Adam’s first wife. She was created from the same earth as Adam (as opposed to Eve being created from Adam’s rib), so she saw herself as his equal. Lilith refused to be submissive to Adam, and therefore she was cast out and demonized.
Evelyn’s role as a Lilith character is fitting, considering that she refuses to be Saleem’s girlfriend. She didn’t want him and vocally stated numerous times that she had no interest in him. Yet Saleem still pursued her and then punished her by pushing himself into her mind. A feminist interpretation of the text sees this scene as a rape: Evelyn is forcibly trying to get Saleem to leave her mind, yet he ignores her protests and uses his power to punish her for not being interested in him.
However, Evelyn’s role is more difficult that just that of a typical man/woman dichotomy. Because Evelyn is an American, and therefore white, she has racial privilege working for her. She is compared to a Western John Wayne archetype with her pellet guns and riding her bicycle like it’s a horse. She sees the Indians as beneath her, and she says, “From now on, there’s a new big chief around here. Okay, Indians” which is a play on the racist trope of cowboys and Indians (209).
Regardless, Evelyn holds up to her Eve archetype because Saleem’s encounter with her shows him that his magical abilities are more powerful than merely listening to people talk. He can enter minds and find out secrets, although the target can feel this gift. With this gift, Saleem is able to find the other midnight children and start the Midnight Children’s Conference. In a way, Evelyn is the “mother” of these children because it was her conflict with Saleem that brought the group together.
Rushdie uses another famous character from history as an allusion in Midnight’s Children. Cyrano de Bergerac is a man with a large nose who falls in love with a beautiful woman. Because his nose embarrasses him, he tells a more handsome man to woo the woman with his words. However, the woman falls in love with the handsome man instead. This story is mimicked with Saleem asking Sonny to talk to Evelyn for him. This same tactic will show up later in the novel, but not after Saleem has tweaked the plan to work out more in his favor. Because this plan backfired, he will fix the problems in order to try to make a more favorable outcome for himself.
The children of midnight are a mixed bunch. They come from all racial, religious, and social backgrounds, and their powers are as vast as the group itself. In a way, they represent India better than Saleem all by himself. And even within their group they have a hierarchy; Saleem and Shiva’s status as the children born exactly at the stroke of midnight gives them a slight advantage. Their powers are stronger, and the children look up to them. The children that were born mere minutes or seconds after midnight also have strong powers, though not as strong as Saleem and Shiva. The powers gradually fade in strength as the children were born farther away from midnight.
Shiva, ever one to take advantage of a situation, sees the Midnight Children’s Conference as a way to control not only the children themselves, but by using a mystical group to control all of India. It is indicative of his association with the god Shiva, a master of destruction. However, the more placid Saleem wants the group to work democratically. It is apparent that his role in juxtaposition of Shiva is as the god Brahma, the god of creation. Their viewpoints are just another of the many ways that the two boys are inversions of the other.