Pointless Toil

May 14, 2019 by Essay Writer

Though Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children if full of comic details and humorous anecdotes of Saleem Sinai’s family history, the overall tone of the novel is in sharp contrast. Destruction and deception pervade much of the novel, and in the end, even when Saleem is getting married, he still sees his future as a journey to obliteration. Though it seems that Saleem’s destruction is necessary to allow Aadam Sinai, who seems even more determined and powerful than the previous generation of midnight’s children, to continue the life of his parents and country, Rushdie implies that the future offers no hope for Aadam. Despite Aadam’s position as the new child of midnight, his family has been condemned to a life of repetition, and thus he will only experience another cycle of annihilation.Saleem’s family history is plagued by the curse of repetition. From the spell of the perforated sheet to the name changes to the switching of babies, each generation seems merely an echo of the one past. Throughout the novel, Saleem emphasizes the theme of repetition, saying that “there was no escape from recurrenceâ€? (326) and that his own life is a “repetitive cycle of my historyâ€? (477). Though not directly related to Saleem, Aadam Sinai is the biological grandchild of Naseem and Aadam Aziz, and is convoluted into the history of Saleem’s life by his association with Shiva. Thus this trend of repetition will also pass on to Aadam. Saleem says, “as my time of connection nears its end, his beganâ€?, indicating Aadam’s fate to carry out the same role as Saleem (477).The events Aadam are to repeat present the most melancholic aspects of Aadam’s future. Saleem Sinai’s life has, with few exceptions, been a downward path. As midnight’s child, he was the embodiment of hope for India and her people, the “happy Child of that glorious Hourâ€? (133). However, his maturation is entangled in a string of shattered hopes. First, his desire to conduct a united midnight’s children’s conference was made impossible by the vastly different ideologies of the children. Then his love for Jamila Singer was sternly rejected, and to top it off, he is sent to fight for Pakistan. His dreams of saving India are again destroyed by his poverty, and finally, even his hope, which gave his life purpose, was drained out of him by the castration. Similarly, Aadam is the embodiment of hope, being the child of midnight’s children as well as a child of the time emergency, Aadam should have even more potent powers. This, coupled with his tenacious will, which was so “steelyâ€? that he would “surely refuse to be defeated by any mere diseaseâ€? (487), indicates that he has the potential for even greater gifts. However, doomed to the curse of repetition, Aadam will simply live to see his hopes and power be crushed, just as his father did.Not only will Aadam’s life be marked by disappointment, the fate of India seems to also be one full of bloodshed. From the massacre of 1915 to the Chinese invasion to the Indo-Pakistani war to Indira Ghandi’s emergency rule, Indian history has been nothing but turmoil and war. Saleem states that his own life is “handcuffed to historyâ€?, demonstrating that his association with the history of India is not a glorious gift, but rather an imprisonment. For Aadam Sinai to live in the same environment, and partake the same role of prisoner as his father, is not an uplifting image.The midnight’s children are the embodiment of hope for India. Through their magical powers and their sacred bond with each other, they have all the potential to make differences, to be “the force which drives between the horns of the dilemmaâ€? and “fulfill the promise of their birthâ€? (292). Though Saleem tries to direct this power to save India, he concludes, “the purpose of the five hundred and eighty-one lay in their destruction; that they had come, in order to come to nothingâ€? (348). Even the most elite group is powerless to make any progress because “prejudices and world-view of adults began to take over their mindsâ€?, thus they are forever bound to think the same way as their parents, with few ideas of change or advancement (292). It would naturally follow that even though Aadam has magical powers, they will be of no use as well.Saleem asks the question of whether there’s any point to action if everything is planned in advance, whether one should just “give up right here and now, understanding the futility of thought, decision, action, since nothing we think makes any difference anyway; things will be as they willâ€? (86). According to him, his life is an exact fulfillment of Ravana’s prophesies, who “ got nothing wrongâ€? (97). Saleem’s life is planned and seen in advance, and none of his efforts bring about any results. Thus he indicates that the answer should be simply to give up, to surrender to the pointlessness of life. Aadam’s life is also prophesized by his father to be an exact repetition of his own, thus implying that any effort on Aadam’s part to escape his imprisonment in the repetitive history will be futile as well.What is most surprising about this novel is that romantic love always fails to provide any hope. His love of Jamila Singer only results in his rejection and imprisonment in the military. In the end, his love for Padma also fails to give him any anticipation for the future. He states that “I will be separated from Padma, my dung-lotus extending an arm towards me across the turbulent sea, until she drowns in the crowd and I am alone in the vastness of the numbers…I am being buffeted right and left while rip tear crunch reaches its climax, and my body is screamingâ€? (532). Saleem sees love, the most powerful and uniting force of all, as another inevitable failure. His initial idealism and hopes of unity among all of India has disintegrated slowly as he lives and experiences life outside the overprotected world of the Methwold Estate. Doomed to repeat the past, Aadam will befall the same fate, where his initial determination will disintegrate with time and living. In the end, not even love, the most basic and powerful of human emotions, will be able to save him.Throughout the novel, Saleem refers to optimism as a disease. Regarding his goal of a united midnight’s children’s conference, he states that this idealism arose from the “optimism of youth — which is a more virulent form of the… disease…â€? (262). Perhaps Saleem’s bleak outlook arises from his recognition of the blinding nature of optimism. During the optimism disease, Mian Abudullah’s downfall is attributed to his ignorance of his enemies. “And so it was that none of the Hummingbird’s optimists were prepared for what happened. They played hit-the-spittoon, and ignored the cracks in the earthâ€? (47). After so many failures, Saleem finally realizes the fallacy of optimism. “It was the end; Saleem gave way to his grief. All my life, I have tried to keep my sorrows under lock and key…but no moreâ€? (499).After experiencing so much defeat and disappointment, Saleem has come to realize that life is pointless, and dreams can never be achieved. He states that life is an “endless dualityâ€?, an inescapable cycle of snakes and ladders, ups and downs that will not alter despite the greatest of efforts. In the end, he concludes that even though his son Aadam, a child of both magical times and magical children, represents a new chapter in history, he will, none the less, be “trampledâ€? by history just as he has been, just as the next 1001 generations will be (533). Perhaps Saleem’s need for centrality and his willingness to bend history to fit his life arises out of a desire for some form of purpose. He recognizes his failure to fulfill his duty as the savior of India, and thus asserts himself as the key to Indian history in hopes of finding some other connection to his mother nation.

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