The Satanic Verses

The Promise of the Magic Lamp: Submission and Sacrifice in The Satanic Verses College

In The Satanic Verses, it seems that no relationship is a relationship between equals. Everyone is paired with an opposite: dominant and submissive, god and worshipper, angel and devil, faithful and adulterous. This inequality creates toxic, even dangerous situations, in which one person sacrifices much for the sake of someone else, or for the sake of religion, with nothing in return. Salman Rushdie plays with notions of faith and faithfulness to critique the concept of sacrifice in both religion and in personal relationships. Through both subverting the idea of blood sacrifice and portraying toxic relationships, Rushdie suggests that religion itself can be a toxic relationship, when a person gives up everything for a promise of a future they have no reason to believe in. This idea is epitomized by “the promise of the magic lamp,” and so I will begin with that, a part of the character Saladin Chamcha’s backstory.

When Saladin was growing up, his father was a formidable presence in his life. He is described as always spying on him or coming up right behind him, even ripping off Saladin’s bedsheet in the middle of the night to “reveal the shameful penis in the clutching, red hand (36).” The father is omniscient, omnipresent, and...

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