Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Why is storytelling important, according to the novel?

how does it shape us as humans and as a culture.

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“What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?”

Haroun and the Sea of Stories, 22

This quote frames the central crisis of the novel: what role does story play in culture and society and what happens when it no longer has power. While the book is written for young adults, the theme of story is nuanced and complicated. Rushdie presents a land in which story is being destroyed, a symbol for the way that narrative is often destroyed in the quest for power. Haroun’s journey through the novel is an answer to the question of the importance of story. The ultimate answer is that story gives meaning.

The Importance of Story

The conflict that begins the action of the novel revolves around the importance of stories in a person’s life. Both of the people that Rashid Khalifa loves, his son and his wife, both turn on him and tell him that his stories are not real and do not matter. Without his stories, Rashid finds that he has no way to support himself or to justify his life. Haroun’s quest is not just an adventure to return Rashid’s stories to him, but it is also a son’s journey to give meaning to his father’s life. In this way, Rushdie suggests that a person’s stories compose their identity and dignity.