Midnight's Children

Midnight's Children Summary and Analysis of Book Three: A Wedding; Midnight; Abracadabra

Summary of "A Wedding"

Because Saleem refuses to marry her, Parvati casts a spell that summons Shiva to her. Saleem then begins describing Shiva’s meteoric rise in the military. He was known for his prowess in battle, especially his powerful legs, and he also became more sophisticated and refined as more and more elites requested his company. He made a name for himself by sleeping with the wives of his contemporaries. Once they became pregnant with his child, though, he dropped them and moved onto another affair. One particularly bitter woman approached him and said that he was the laughingstock of the elite women. She said that the women used him for their own gain and suffered his attempts at appearing refined. This caused Shiva to grow extremely bitter and cruel towards the elite.

With Parvati’s spell upon him, the two began sleeping together until Parvati became pregnant with Shiva’s child. He constantly beats her and then sleeps with dozens of prostitutes to match the number of slum children to the number of rich children that he has fathered. Parvati then releases Shiva from her spell once the child is nearly born and returns to Picture and Saleem, who have been trying to spread the word of communism. Picture convinces Saleem to marry Parvati, saying that she can’t have a fatherless child.

Summary of "Midnight"

On June 25th, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declares Emergency at the same time that Saleem’s son is being born. The boy has elephant-sized ears, which makes Saleem laugh at the irony. He then briefly mentions that Indira Gandhi has been a widow for fifteen years.

For months, things were difficult for Saleem’s new family, as he and Parvati were married and she took the name Leylah that Saleem gave to her. Yet one morning, a group of bulldozers appeared, claiming to be a part of a beautification program. Soldiers then appeared and dragged everyone out of the ghetto before dozing the entire area down. Shiva shows up and takes down Saleem, and then Saleem is locked in prison. He forgets this part of the story; he only knows that somehow the soldiers got him to give the names of the Midnight Children’s Conference.

Slowly, the prison fills up with his midnight siblings; then one by one they are taken into operating rooms and sterilized. This causes them to lose their magical abilities, and the woman in charge of the operation tells Saleem that Indira Gandhi does not want any mystics competing for supremacy over India. Saleem also finds out that Shiva had undergone voluntary sterilization before heading the movement to gather the rest of midnight’s children.

Months later, the prisoners are released.

Summary of "Abracadabra"

Saleem, knowing that bulldozers killed Parvati, seeks to find Picture and his son. He mentions that the bitter woman who laughed at his attempts at seduction killed Shiva; afterwards, however, he announces that he lied, that he was too afraid of Shiva to think about where he was and what he was doing.

The two men take to raising Saleem’s son together, but their child rearing is interrupted when Picture hears of a man who claims that he is the greatest snake charmer in India. He, along with Saleem and the child, travel to Bombay to have a snake-charming match in a dingy, underground club. Picture wins the battle but loses his strength. As Saleem eats chutney, he asks the blind waitress where the food is made. He then leaves to find the Braganze Pickle Factory, which was once Methwold Estate, and discovers that Mary Pereira runs the company. She takes Saleem and his son in, and the story returns to the present. Though Padma insists that Saleem marry her, Saleem knows that this will not happen. He claims that, on his thirty-first birthday, he will break apart and float away in 600 million specks of dust.


Shiva’s aptitude for battle isn’t surprising, considering that he is the embodiment of destruction. And because the god Shiva is also known for reproduction, Shiva sleeping with hundreds of women and fathering hoards of children is an apt role. What makes Shiva even more dangerous, though, is his volatile temper and hatred towards women.

Shiva believes that he should be in charge and have the upper hand; when he is sleeping with the upper-class women, he loves being able to take advantage of their wealth and undermine the men. Yet as soon as he hears that the women are sleeping with him out of boredom and that they see through his cheap ploys, he grows self-conscious. Feeling this way makes Shiva angry, and he feels the need to get back in control.

When he and Parvati are together, he sees beating her as a way to gain his masculinity back. He also takes his anger out by fathering hundreds of poor children who might one day overtake the rich people as vengeance. That way, when Shiva elects to have voluntary sterilization, he knows that there are hundreds and hundreds of his children in India who all have a bit of his magical strength in them. It is mainly because of his philandering that Indira’s plan to quell magic in India is in vain. While none of the other children can produce offspring, Shiva has created enough to make up for everyone else.

Indira Gandhi, the Widow that Saleem refers to in passing, historically created the State of Emergency in order to stop and rumors that she was abusing her political power. In Midnight’s Children, though, she uses the Emergency to stop the spread of midnight’s children. She sees India as hers to claim, and she does not want these children to come and take power away from her. With this act, Rushdie shows that Indira finally killed the rest of India’s spirit while it was still young and growing.

Saleem and Picture’s journey to the nightclub is an allusion to Odysseus’ trip to the underworld. Saleem is in a strange new place, a place where the debauchery is so great that people are ashamed to admit that they frequent the nightclub. It resembles the underworld, as it is dark and gloomy; Saleem even refers to it as “Stygian” (522). People appeared as shadowy vapors, their acts apparently so heinous that they rival the sins of the people in Hell.

Yet it is here that Saleem finds the blind waitress who is able to guide the rest of his journey home. She is the Indian embodiment of Tiresias, the blind prophet who helped Odysseus figure out the rest of the way back to Ithica. The waitress tells Saleem where the chutney is made, giving him the opportunity to find the woman who raised him as a child. Now that the hero has made his journey full-circle, he is right back where he started: at Methwold’s Estate being cared for by Mary.