Analysis of East, West Story Collection by Salman Rushdie: Personal Harmony and Outsider Disturbance
Salman Rushdie, born on June 19, 1947, is a widely famous and well-renowned author known among various cultures of society. Still alive today, Salman was brought up in Mumbai, India within a wealthy family of Muslim business owners. His most famous novel, The Midnight’s Children, claimed a Booker Prize in 1981. Aside from this, Rushdie is the author of ten published books. Though, the point of focus in this paper will entail only Salman Rushdie’s East, West stories. The novel is divided up into three sections containing three stories each: East, West, and East, West.
Beginning with the East story collection, analyzation begins of The Prophet’s Hair. One of the main characters goes by a name of Atta, a young man from a family of high wealth who creeps the shady streets of the inner city, seeking out for a professional burglar to hire. Sweeping down an alleyway, two men jumped poor Atta and beat him to the verge of nonexistence, claiming his ample sized bankroll in the process. Atta is then ‘carried by anonymous hands to the edge of the lake…on the deserted embankment of the canal which led to the gardens of Shalimar.’ (35) Rushdie, in this scene, seemed to foreshadow a dark relation between the upper and lower levels of society based upon someone’s monetary value.
In the morning to follow, Atta is the discovered by a flower-vendor rowing by. Recovering Atta, he then rows him home to his family house on the lake shore. Upon arrival, we meet the sister of Atta, named Huma, who wept over the sight of her coma-induced brother. In the next evening, Huma set out to the city in further pursuit of, not revenge, but a thief for hire. With no valued possessions on her person, she was funneled into a dark room flooded by the low dim of a candle. Here she meets Sin, the lowly criminal of no terror Huma has been looking for. In this scenario, Rushdie refers to the criminal as ‘Sin.’ There are underlying hints of religious inference, deeming all thieves as sinful.
Continuing with her story, Huma explains the instance to Sin of when her father, Hashim the moneylender, notices a glint of silver floating in his quay. He grabs it and realizes the greatness within the item at his hand: ‘the famous relic of the Prophet Muhammed’ (43.) Within this vial of silver suspends a single human hair. Hashim now has a decision to make: return the hair to its shrine, restating peace, or to keep it to himself. He decided to keep the relic to himself, which his behavior then took a turn for the worst. Hashim began to scold everyone at the table, beginning with his wife, to he admitted unfaithfulness, as well as his children. He scolded Atta for being ‘a dope’ and his daughter for trekking the city barefaced. Rushdie shadows the idea of material relics, especially those of high value, can make a person go insane. So insane to the point of destroying your own family bond with harsh insults.
As the next day rose, new rules were being set by Hashim among the home. He ordered every family member to read from the Qur’an two hours per day. Alarmed at these new changes, Atta and Huma make a stand, especially after Hashim strikes their mother. Atta bravely step in, but is flung aside, and Huma makes a stand to Hashim, announcing she will not cover her face in any fashion ever. Hashim is astonished and disowns Huma instantly, giving her a week to move out. On the turn of the fourth day, Hashim left his home to extract dues from clients, when Atta then thieved the silver vial from Hashim’s safe. Associating with Huma about the vial, Atta then exclaims ‘there will be no peace until this hair is out of it’ (49.) Atta then sets out to return the hair to the mosque, but lost it through a hole in his pocket along the journey. At his return, he finds both his mother and sister weeping to the high heavens. As he asks what happened, Huma responds that Hashim had scooped up the relic once more and was amongst a rage again. I believe Rushdie once again foreshadowed the effect of craziness material things can have on a person, tempting them to act differently.
As their talk continues, Huma then asks Sin if he can perform the theft within the night. In return, Huma plans to hand over all jewelry owned between herself and her mother as payment. With detailed plans of the house and sleeping patterns, provided by Huma, Sin began his hunt for the relic. As he approaches the moneylenders pillow, Atta sits upright and screams ‘Thief! Thief! Thief!’ (54.) After a brief spit of words, Atta fell back to his death. This triggered a chain reaction, both the mother and Hashim now being wide awake. As Hashim rushed out the room with his sword-cane, the unnoticed Sin retrieves the silver vial. In utter darkness, the father waved his sword eerily about, stabbing a shadowed figure through the chest. As the light switched on, it is revealed that he has murdered his daughter. Among instant sorrow, he turns the sword upon himself, taking his own life.
All the carnage drove Hashim’s wife crazy that she was admitted to a mental hospital the day after. As for Sin, who tried to escape through the attic, but was met with a piece of iron from the Deputy Chief’s rifle. As he dropped dead from the roof, out rolled a silver vial from his pocket. Peace was then fully restored the next day when the vial was returned to the mosque. Conclusively, Rushdie in this story emphasizes the craziness attained with material items and the ultimate tragedy it may lead to, death. Also underlying within the story was the idea of sin never going unpunished, with all characters meeting a certain demise. Shifting weight to the West oriented stories, we take a deeper look into the story of Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship (Santa Fe, A.D. 1492). Opening with Columbus being descripted as a foreigner, he commends to follow Queen Isabella for an intense amount of time. In hopes of what? ‘He hopes for preferment’ (107.) What else did Columbus hope for? Well, given the year is 1492, that is when he sailed the Nina Pinta Santa Maria trio across the ocean blue. Rushdie opens the beginning of his story with a true account of Columbus’s achievement, but his writings tends to sway readers into a different perspective of his other motives.
Furthermore, Columbus is then depicted as a lunatic who drinks himself beyond an excessive state. ‘See him, the drunkard…a fool with a glittering eye dreaming of a Golden Paradise beyond the Western Edge of Things’ (109), ending with a simple line, ‘Consummation.’ (109) It can be seen here that the Queen knows of Columbus’s true motives, but decides to antagonize him anyway, seeking ulterior motives herself. As she eventually promises Columbus all of his voyage needs, she turns around to crush his dreams in an instant. There was even an instance where Columbus was summoned to her room one day, permitting him to ‘braid her hair and, for a moment, to fondle her breasts.’ (109) Afterwards, she banishes him ‘for forty days…to the stables.’ (109) Yet again, another sexual innuendo made by Rushdie in reference to the double defined word, consummation.
The story continues. What is shocking to see is Columbus’s revelation to being toyed with. He states that ‘pleasing the Queen is good…pleasing the Queen…may help him to achieve his purpose.’ (110) Columbus is rushed with all the possibilities. Why does she torment him? Is it because he is a foreigner? Maybe because he is a drunkard? Or what if it happens to be a love connection? Doubtful. According to Columbus, ‘she is an absolute monarch.’ (110) Columbus is seen to her as a mere possession, as she pities no one, but what is her reasoning?
Columbus eventually concludes that he does not understand the Queen. ‘He is her invisible man.’ (111) Again, the scenery comes to a close with the word consummation. I truly infer that Rushdie was writing this story with a dual sense of purpose among the word consummation, especially with the content of the following scene. Opening with ‘the sexual appetites of the male decline’ (111) is a bit disturbing. I believe this line alone further supports Rushdie’s true purpose of writing, the dual purpose of consummation. As time keeps moving forward, Queen Isabella continues to conquer more and more land, war by war, leading Columbus to finally conclude on leaving Isabella.
As the story continues, Columbus states that ‘the search for money and patronage is not so different from the quest for love.’ (112) Descriptions of the Queen conquering her destinies flood the page. ‘All of her dreams are prophecies.’ (113) So Rushdie tends to believe all dreams are to become a reality? As we envelop further into the text, this idea of dreams becoming reality is further supported by Isabella showing triumph over the seizure of Alhambra, as depicted in the dream before. It is at this moment Columbus loses all of hope. He packs his bags and rides his mule off into the distance. He travels far and wide, crossing the plains of bitter barrenness out to the middle of nowhere. Columbus pays no mind to the long line of exiled Jews passing before his very eyes, having lost his dream. ‘Exhaustion strips him of his senses.’ (115) Continuing to walk of his utmost capability, Columbus loses his sanity and begins to have a vision.
‘It is a dream of a dream.’ (115) With Columbus envisioning the following events, Isabella conquers the lands of Alhambra, she stares into a large stone bowl of blood. Within the blood, Isabella envisions her conquering and victories when Columbus dreams becoming a sludge, repulsing the mindset of the Queen. She comes to the realization that she will ‘never, never, NEVER! be satisfied by the possession of the Known. Only the Unknown…can satisfy her.’ (116) As tides turn, this leads to Isabella to accept the dream Columbus has, ‘linking her to him forever with bonds far harder to dissolve than those of any mortal love, the harsh and defying ties of history.’ (117) Ending with consummation, Rushdie produces the characters’ true realization of what consummation is actually referring to in this scenario.
With Isabella realizing the savage dream, she sets out to find Columbus, but he refuses to be found. With her sole purpose now to be tied to history with Columbus, he begins denying her heart’s desire refusing to be found, toying with her as she did to him. At the end of his dream, he allows Isabella’s heralds to find him. While hoping for the Exterminating Angel, his vision concludes, as he finds himself knees down in the plains with Isabella’s heralds in a surrounding fashion. ‘Good news! The Queen has summoned you. Your voyage: wonderful news. She saw a vision, and it scared her. All her dreams are prophecies.’ (118) Rushdie took a dramatic twist within the last part, hinting at a possible dream connection between the Queen and Columbus. As Columbus envisioned his dream wishes upon her dream, the fantasy resulted in reality when the heralds spoke of the voyage beyond becoming true.
Conclusively, I believe that Rushdie used the word ‘consummation’ in his writing multiple times to reference the dual meaning behind the word, leaving audience members with two similar, yet different stories to think about. In reference to the dream connections during the story, I believe that gave this story even more aspects and points of view to look from, determining the true meaning behind Rushdie’s literacy work.
As we enclose to the crossroad of East and West stories, get ready to dive in the mix of East, West, incorporating influences of literature from both sides of the horizon. Looking into the story The Harmony of the Spheres, I will seek to find what exactly lays as the meaning behind Salman Rushdie’s writing.
Opening during the time of the Jubilee, the main character is identified as Eliot Crane, who has paranoid schizophrenia. His wife, who goes by the name of Lucy Evans, is a young photo-journalist who has been working on a local paper. One day after lunch, Eliot told Lucy he would go to bed early and departed ways. Lucy got home late only to find an empty bedroom. Where has Eliot gone? She assumed he found sleep within the residence of the guest bedroom, so she went to sleep herself, only to be haunted by a disastrous premonition. As she returned to the guest room, Lucy discovered a scene that would shatter her world. ‘He had sucked on his shotgun and pulled the trigger.’ (125) With Eliot no longer in the picture, the only thing left behind was a detailed account on how to care for the shotgun. What forced Eliot to do this? Rushdie suspends his audience by foretelling the events of Eliot Crane’s demise, but shifts the story back to a week beforehand. Before a trigger was pulled.
Reminiscence takes the setting back to Jubilee bonfires. The fire was depicted by Eliot as originally being made from bones, even human remains, ‘the charred skeletons my dears of yuman beans.’ (126) This phrase directly contains hints of demonic presence already, furtherly supported by Eliot telling ‘dread tales of local Sabbats, at which cloaked and urine-drinking sorcerers conjured devils up from Hell.’ (126) The text envelops further upon Eliot’s history with a demonic presence. As Lucy and Eliot sold their quaint haunted home in Cambridge, they began to live on the run, until they settled down again at Crowley End. Unfortunately, the demon would rediscover his home address. During this period of time, Lucy finds Eliot ‘going the wrong way on the motorway, doing ninety, with one of those sleep-mask things over his eyes.’ (127) So what could possibly cause that? A man driving down the highway at ninety, blindfolded, isn’t feasible enough. Rushdie is not flat out telling us of a demonic presence within Eliot, but he surely is foreshadowing the rendering of an evil entity controlling Eliot.
As the text continues, the story starts to develop a Martian based character who claims to be an invader from Mars. There was also additional reference to the phrase yuman beans, in correlation with human beings, as it states ‘Martians had great gifts of mimicry, so they could fool yuman beans into believing they were beans of the same stripe.’ (127) While the narrator depicts a sense of bipolar-ism in Eliot, describing actions of passive and inertness to rage and violence, context switches to the narrator becoming friends with Eliot his last year in Cambridge. It is here that another character is introduced, Laura, who happens to be the love affair of our narrator.
Eventually becoming to marriage, Laura was asked the question ‘…couldn’t you find someone of, you know, your own kind?’ (128) This must’ve been newfound news to Laura, not knowing the narrator was Martian, because she threatened him with the wedding cake knife. It was within these moments another main character emerges. Rushdie in this story envelops a sense of darkness and unknowingness about the narrator, leaving his background to build up through reader progression, all while introducing new characters who show correlation with the narrators’ background.
Her name was Mala. Depicted as a ‘grey-eyed fellow-alien in granny glasses’ (129), Mala was the one the narrator eventually married, but it wasn’t until after marriage that he realizes Mala was sent in his direction by the mysterious Eliot Crane. Lucy replied over the phone that Eliot would like to see him, as he is more comfortable with Martians now. While kicking back and enjoying his Martian friend Khan’s company, they began to discuss the events of driving that night. He explained that he was ‘barking’ at wild excesses, but in between these mental attacks, he would act as if he were ‘perfectly normal’. Conclusively, he accepted that he wasn’t mad, just caught an illness. As the plot progresses, discovery of Lucy being a cruiser owner had surfaced. She had named it the Bougainvillaea in memory of her childhood.
Eliot had first met his demonic entity after finishing his writing of The Harmony of Spheres. One night he was awake around three a.m., the electricity not working. With a rising chill in his body, all the lights started to go crazy, switching on and off again and again. He defended himself by crossing his arms justly and repeating ‘Apage me, Satanas.’ (135) After that, everything seemed to return to normal. Other instances of dark relevance seemed to indicate a demonic presence within Eliot, as the narrator compares them as the most unlikely of friends. With descriptions of anti-war protestation and racial relations, Eliot seemed to enjoy ‘blasting the life out of one’s furry and feathered friends, doing one’s bit for the food chain. Marvellous.’ (136) Rushdie is definitely underlying demonic tones in all aspects of Eliot Crane, from the hobbies he is involved in to their mutual friends, but what really brought these two together? Old black magic.
Aside from the black magic, ‘I was taught the verses that conjured up the Devil, Shaitan,’ (138) If the hints didn’t get any vaguer, Rushdie comes out and lays it on the line, conferring that the narrator and his friend Eliot conduct risky business when summoning the Beast 666. Khan and Eliot practiced hypnosis a lot, putting each other under a means of a trigger word ‘bananas’, triggering the event to remove ones’ clothes upon instance. Khan admits to feeling unhinged about Eliot at first, feeling a ‘disharmony of personal spheres.’ (139) I believe Rushdie inferred the Harmony of Spheres as a sense of well-being and balance among all the various factors of one’s life. With a harmonious balance being off-kilter, one can assume that bad things could happen.
In the end, Eliot’s demons eventually caught up with him, leading to the turmoil mentioned in the very beginning of the story. As the narrator further discusses harmony, he envelops that no such idea would ever be in the head of Eliot Crane. Reference to the swastika being symbolized as ‘good’ gives this passage a sinister backwards tone that appeals to the mystery mind of readers. What exactly was Rushdie trying to accomplish? Within three tea chests, Bill Evans stuffed numerous manuscripts of random obscurities and chants from the writings of Eliot Crane.
Within those chests contained fantasies about his closest friends, Mala, Khan, and Lucy. When they were deciphered, many revealed violent attacks upon Khan, as well as indigenous sexual acts toward Khans wife Mala. The pages covering details of Lucy were described as ‘nasty and lubricious.’ (144) Searching vigorously for any loving remark, Khan finds himself at a loss. How could someone be friends for so long and not have a single thing nice to say? Eliot was then buried to his specific wishings, as Lucy and Khan parted ways afterwards, never to interact again. In continuance, Mala informs Khan that she had warned him before of Eliot Crane. ‘That mess-head. He’s bad for you.’ (146) As she speaks these words, Khan begins to feel a collapse of harmony as the spheres within his heart begin to demolish.
In conclusion, I feel that Rushdie is trying to emphasize the idea of internal harmony. Relating the spheres to planetary form, Martians can be seen as the ‘outsiders’ or friends within personal harmony. Within these spheres of personal harmony, there is a sense of demonic presence that makes everything negative or badly influenced.
This demonic presence can be anything from tragic loss to guilt, as it just sits and eats away at your conscience. As it eats away, your harmonically-induced spheres control your life and keeps everything smooth and balanced…until the ‘demonic presence’ shifts everything into a disorganized manner. This results in self-breakdown, low appreciation, low interests, and eventually can lead to the taking of your own life. I think Rushdie was trying to get across the idea of not letting the demonic presence get the best of you or break you down any lower than you are happy with, because it could lead to a life of devilish and remorseful actions.
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