Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children Quotes and Analysis

Now, returning, he saw through travelled eyes. Instead of the beauty of the tiny valley circled by giant teeth, he noticed the narrowness, the proximity of the horizon; and felt sad, to be at home and feel so utterly enclosed. He also felt – inexplicably – as though the old place resented his educated, stethoscoped return.

Saleem’s narration, page 5

Saleem’s narration about his grandfather’s return to Kashmir is a strong introduction to Aadam’s growing resentment of his homeland. Because he was educated in Europe, he returned to India with a feeling of superiority, beliving that Kashmir was both small in location as well as small-minded in its acceptance of Western culture. This will be an idea that permeates through the rest of Aadam’s story; he refuses to assimilate back into Indian culture and therefore begins to lose his identity.

She has been weeping ever since he asked her, on their second night, to move a little. “Move where?” she asked. “Move how?” He became awkward and said, “Only move, I mean, like a woman…” She shrieked in horror. “My God, what have I married? I know you Europe-returned men. You find terrible women and then you try to make us girls be like them! Listen, Doctor Sahib, husband or no husband, I am not any…bad word woman.”

Reverend Mother, page 31

Naseem and Aadam's marriage soon turns sour after a relatively pleasant beginning. This exchange in their marriage bed makes it difficult for the two to ever trust each other again. Because Aadam went away to college in Europe, he developed certain notions about how women should behave towards men. Yet according to Naseem’s traditions, she was not supposed to act out in sex. By requesting that Naseem abandon her beliefs in order to serve him shows how the West has begun to permeate into the East in the smallest, most innocuous ways. In the West, women are supposed to work to please men sexually, and Aadam wants to continue this tradition back in his homeland.

A son, Sahiba, who will never be older than his motherland – neither older nor younger,

There will be too heads—but you will see only one—there will be knees and a nose, a nose and knees,

Newspapers praise him, two mothers raise him! Bicyclists love him—but, crowds will shove him! Sisters will seep, cobras will creep.

Washing will hide him—voices will guide him! Friends mutilate him—blood will betray him!

Spittoons will brain him—doctors will drain him—jungle will claim him—wizards reclaim him! Soldiers will try him—tyrants will fry him.

He will have sons without having sons! HE will be old before he is old! And he will die…before he is dead!

Ramram Seth, page 96

Ramram’s prophesy about Saleem’s life came as a shock to Amina. When she hears these words, she is terrified at the words because she is unable to see how these events will play out for her child. Also, with Saleem’s insistence of mysticism combined with his unreliability as a narrator, it is important to note that some of these events may have been tweaked or altered slightly to fit this prophesy. Saleem is a self-important character who truly believes he is the embodiment of India; readers must decide whether or not his story is truthful or if he made events up to make his life seem more significant than it actually was.

But now there are twenty days to go, things are settling down, the sharp edges of things are getting blurred, so they have all failed to notice what is happening: the Estate, Methwold’s Estate, is changing them. Every evening at six they are out in their gardens, celebrating the cocktail hour, and when William Methwold comes to call they slip effortlessly into their imitation Oxford drawls; and they are learning, about ceiling-fans and gas cookers and the correct diet for budgeringars, and Methwold, supervising their transformation, is mumbling under his breath. Listen carefully: what’s he saying? Yes, that’s it. “Sabkuch ticktock hai,” mumbles William Methwold. All is well.

Saleem’s narration, page 109

This quote is a prime example of how the culture of an imperialistic nation permeates into a colonized society. Methwold insisted that the tenants join him for cocktail hour as part of their rental agreement. They protested at first, but it soon became second-nature to try and imitate their colonizer. They wanted to impress him with their poise. Soon, all Methwold has to do is sit back and watch the Indians carry on like there are Englishmen, complete with imitation accents.

“You don’t know nothing, Mary, the air comes from the north now, and it’s full of dying. This independence is for the rich only; the poor are being made to kill each other like flies. In Punjab, in Bengal. Riots riots, poor against poor. It’s in the wind."

Joe D’Costa, page 116

Joe D’Costa, Mary’s revolutionary love interest, knows that the country’s independence is a farce and that it won’t do anything for the real people of India. Though he himself is a radical, his words are nonetheless extremely wise and intuitive about the nature of how the world works. Up until this point, we have only seen how revolution would benefit those of financial means. However, Joe realizes that India being free from the British Empire won’t do anything to change the inequality and class warfare for anyone below the poverty line.

The moment I was old enough to play board games, I fell in love with Snakes and Ladders. Oh perfect balance of rewards and penalties! O seemingly random choices made by tumbling dice! Clambering up ladders, slithering down snakes, I spent some of the happiest days of my life.

Saleem’s narration, page 160

Snakes and ladders are repeated motifs in Midnight’s Children. In the game Snakes and Ladders, snakes always represent a descent while ladders represent a way to climb to the top. The novel subverts this motif in a number of ways. Saleem’s interactions with snakes prove to be more positive than negative; on one occasion, a snake saved his life.

Does one error invalidate the entire fabric? Am I so far gone, in my desperate need for meaning, that I’m prepared to distort everything—to re-write the whole history of my times purely in order to place myself in a central role? Today, in my confusion. I can’t judge. I’ll hate to leave it to others.

Saleem’s narration, page 190

In this quote, Saleem addresses the issue of his dependability after realizing that he made a mistake concerning Gandhi’s death. One of the difficulties of reading Midnight’s Children is that Saleem is an unreliable narrator. The reader can never tell if Saleem is fabricating events to make his life seem more interesting, or if the magical realism is truly a part of the story. He realizes that what he is saying sounds incredulous, but he fully believes his exploits are true. Whether or not these exploits are true, however, is up for debate.

Even if Shaheed had been able to hear me, I could not then have told him what I later became convinced was the truth: that the purpose of that entire war had been to reunite me with an old life.

Saleem’s narration, page 429

This quote comes after the 1971 conflict over Bangladeshi independence ends and Saleem has emerged from the Sundarbans into India. Because of Saleem’s unreliability, this quote can be taken two different ways. The first assumes that Saleem’s story is accurate. If this is true, then Saleem’s life has truly been dictated by fate. He is the “twin” of India, and therefore fate is always going to bring the two together. On the other hand, if Saleem has invented a mystical connection between himself and India, then this conclusion is one of his delusions. He wrongly believes every event in India’s history since its independence has influenced his own life.

And at last the Buddha spoke, knowing Shaheed could not hear: “O, Shaheeda,” he said, revealing the depths of his fastidiousness, “a person must sometimes choose what he will see and what he will not; look away, look away from there now.” But Shaheed was staring at a maidan in which lady doctors were being bayoneted before they were raped, and raped again before they were shot. Above them and behind them, the cool white minaret of a mosque stared blindly down upon the scene.

Saleem’s narration, page 432

After the conflict over Bangladeshi independence, while Saleem and Shaheed are walking through Dacca and watching the Pakistani soldiers torture and rape female doctors. Standing above this scene and watching it unfold is a minaret of a Muslim mosque. This is an example of how certain groups and cultures harbor sexist and misogynistic attitudes towards women, while the church stands by and does nothing about these atrocities. Coming from an atheistic author, this scene could be a critique of how religion does not protect, defend, or support women in their struggle for equality. Even during these countries’ independence, women are still treated as commodities and aren’t given the same respect as their male counterparts.

…something was ending, something was being born, and at the precise instant of the birth of the new India and the beginning of a continuous midnight which would not end for two long years, my son, the child of the renewed ticktock, came out into the world.

Saleem’s narration, page 481-2

The cycle of creation and destruction appears at the same moment that Parvati births her son. At midnight on June 25th, the prime minister declares a State of Emergency, meaning that she is allowed to use excessive military force and censor the press in order to “protect” India; Saleem, however, is skeptical of her motives. This Emergency would prove to be the end of the Midnight Children’s Conference. But, at the stroke of midnight, Saleem’s son is born. It is a joyous occasion, an occasion that allows the children of midnight to live on.