The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections I - III
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The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide1: Chapters I - III

  1. "The Angel Gibreel"
  2. "Mahound"
  3. "Ellowen Deeowen"

The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part I - "The Angel Gibreel"
  1. Chapter 1
    • The jumbo jet Bostan spontaneously explodes over the English Channel (as a result of a terrorist attack, as we later learn). Two of its passengers survive the long plummet down into the water. Both men are Indian actors who were traveling to London: Gibreel Farishta is jubilant and carefree, while Saladin Chamcha is “buttony, pursed” (4).
    • The narrator focuses on their descent. As they fall, both sing aloud, competing to be the loudest. The narrator explains that each man is undergoing a transformation. On the way down, Gibreel sees a vision of Rekha Merchant, an old lover who has died. We get few details about her here, though the narrator implies that Gibreel feels guilty over having jilted her. Now, she curses him.
    • As they plummet, Saladin begins flapping his arms to fly, and urges Gibreel to do the same. The flapping seems to slow their descent, and they land unharmed in the water. Soon, they wash up on an English beach. The narrator speculates about which man is responsible for the miracle of their survival, and whether their powers are angelic or satanic.
  2. Chapter 2
    • The narrator next focuses on back story for the two characters.
    • Gibreel Farishta had been the most in-demand actor in the Indian film industry until he grew sick with a life- and career-threatening illness shortly before his fortieth birthday. He recovered, but suddenly disappeared from India before returning back to work, thereby leaving leaving his directors and co-stars in a lurch. He had been having an affair with his married, well-to-do neighbor, Rekha Merchant, and when Rekha saw the enigmatic farewell letter he sent to the newspaper, she murdered her children and committed suicide by throwing herself and the children from the roof of the apartment building that she and Gibreel shared.
    • As an actor, Gibreel specialized in playing religious figures, including Buddha and the Hindu god Krishna. Perhaps because of this, he is fascinated with reincarnation and rebirth.
    • As their plane was being hijacked, Gibreel told his life story to Saladin, who was sitting next to him. Gibreel was born Ismail Najmuddin, in Pune. He would eventually choose the stage name Gibreel Farishta because his mother had always called him her little angel. (Gibreel is the name of an angel in the Muslim tradition, a version of the name Gabriel, and Farishta simply translates to ‘angel.’) At age thirteen, he moved to Bombay, and became a lunch-porter like his father. Shortly after he began working, his mother died; when Gibreel was twenty, his father died too. The General Secretary of the lunch-porters’ guild, Babasaheb Mhatre, then invited the boy to live with him and his wife.
    • As it turns out, the Mhatres never had children, and Mr. Mhatre hoped that an adopted son would help dilute his wife’s stifling attention. This did not happen – Mrs. Mhatre felt uncomfortable babying a twenty-year-old – but Mr. Mhatre did encourage Gibreel’s interest in reincarnation and the supernatural. Once, Gibreel idly daydreamed about being in a gay relationship with Mr. Mhatre, and immediately felt ashamed. A year after adopting him, Mr. Mhatre kick-started Gibreel’s acting career by calling in a favor with a film studio executive to get Gibreel cast as a movie extra.
    • After four years of playing secondary comic roles, Gibreel finally got his big break playing Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god. He had never had much romantic success before landing this role, but his success as Ganesh in a series of films resulted in a libertine life as a prolific playboy. (He managed to keep this fact from Mr. Mhatre, who on his deathbed was still urging Gibreel to marry). The affair with his neighbor Rekha proved to be the most intense - they constantly fought and made up. All of Gibreel's success was women was in spite of his remarkably bad breath.
    • One day, Gibreel began internally hemorrhaging while filming a fight scene. No logical cause was discovered for his affliction, and he nearly died. Though he eventually recovered, the incident caused him to lose his religious faith and to doubt God. The first thing he did after leaving the hospital was stuff his face with pork at a fancy restaurant – being a Muslim, eating the unclean pork constituted a great transgression. He only stopped when a white mountain-climber, Alleluia Cone, insulted him as being selfish for not celebrating his miraculous recovery. He fell immediately in love with her, and broke off the affair with Rekha. Although his affair with Alleluia only lasted three days before she left India, it inspired him to depart for London under his real name, in hopes of reconnecting with her and starting a new life.
  3. Chapter 3
    • Saladin Chamcha sits on the doomed airplane as it departs from Mumbai, where he was visiting his family after having performed a play in India. Having been long established in London, he regrets having returned to India, especially since he finds his sculpted English accent being replaced by the Indian accent he had worked hard to overcome.
    • Saladin thinks back on his childhood. He remembers finding a wallet full of British pounds one day when he was a boy, only to have his father Changez rapidly snatch it away, suggesting he had not earned the money. Changez was an accomplished businessman and politician, but his harshness alienated his son. He also recalls an "avatar of Aladdin's very own genie" lamp which his father owned. Though the boy coveted it, Changez refused to let him either rub it or play with it, but insinuated he might one day allow Saladin to have it.
    • From a young age, Saladin dreamed of moving to London, far away from his father and his native Bombay. At age thirteen, he was molested by an old man while walking on the beach. He never told anyone about this incident, though it intensified his desire to leave the country. He finally got his wish when his father offered to send him to boarding school in England. At this time, Saladin still went by his given name – Salahuddin Chamchawala. He would later shorten it to Saladin, partially to accommodate his classmates, who could not pronounce Salahuddin. As an adult, he would change his last name to Chamcha, based on the advice of his acting agent. Though leaving India was exciting for him, it was heartbreaking for his mother Nasreen, to whom he was very close.
    • When Changez and Saladin arrived in London to establish him at the school, Changez returned the wallet to the boy, but insisted he pay for everything on the trip. For the entire week before school started, Saladin was anxious about having enough money for the hotel and food. He resented his father for this, and swore he would become the one thing his father could never be: a true Englishman. On his first morning at school, Saladin struggled for ninety minutes to figure out how to correctly eat a herring, and no one offered any help. This only strengthened his determination.
    • When Saladin returned from school at eighteen, his criticisms of India caused a rift with his parents. Shortly after his return, India went to war with Pakistan. One night, his mother Nasreen was hosting a party when the bomb sirens went off. Everyone hid except her, and she choked on a piece of fish, dying because everyone was hidden and did not see her struggle. Less than a year later, Changez married another woman named Nasreen, which infuriated Saladin. He severed all ties to his father. Over the year, Changez continued to write Saladin, accusing Saladin of being possessed by the devil. These letters – along with reports that his Muslim father had grown excessively religious – unsettled Saladin, who was now living independently as an actor.
    • In the meanwhile, Saladin married a beautiful English woman named Pamela Lovelace. Their relationship was turbulent: Pamela was deeply troubled because her parents killed themselves when she was a girl, and Saladin’s inability to have children only exacerbated their problems.
    • When he traveled to Bombay to perform in a George Bernard Shaw play, he started an affair with Zeeny Vakil, a controversial writer whom he had known from childhood. Her work concerned Indian identity, and she insisted she would reclaim Saladin for India. She introduced him to her Marxist friends, George Miranda and Bhupen Gandhi. One night, they were all drinking together when Bhupen got involved in a heated political debate. Although Zeeny believed the debate reminded Saladin about his Indian heritage, the incident only highlighted how detached Saladin feels from his native culture.
    • However, Saladin was not entirely happy in England, either. He had become very successful as a voice actor, but his current situation was precarious because his main role, as the voice of an alien on a sitcom, had become controversial for its implicit commentary on race and immigration. Although he had long been secular, his religious background had nevertheless discouraged him from starting a relationship with a Jewish colleague, Mimi Mamoulian. He and Mimi were considered the foremost voice actors in England.
    • While in India, Saladin made arrangements to visit his father and his stepmother, Nasreen the Second. He brought Zeeny with him. When he arrived at his childhood house, he was disturbed to discover that the housekeeper's wife, Kasturba, was wearing his dead mother's clothing. He realized that Changez was having an affair with her, but his indignation was ignored by Kasturba, Changez, and the housekeeper Vallabhbhai, all of whom argued that Saladin had no right to judge after leaving for so long.
    • Changez showed Saladin and Zeeny some of his antique Mughal tapestries. One of his artifacts is an old genie's lamp, which Saladin had always coveted but Changez refused to part with until his death. They all discussed art together, and Zeeny kissed Changez on the lips right in front of Saladin. Incensed, Saladin broke up with her and left for London on the doomed airplane.
  4. Chapter 4
    • On the jet, Saladin idly watches a beautiful woman carrying a baby. He also chats with Eugene Dumsday, an oblivious American missionary. Suddenly, the beautiful woman and three male hijackers run up the aisles and take the passengers hostage. The woman’s name is Tavleen, and it turns out that her baby was a concealed bundle of dynamite. She is more vicious than her male partners - Dara, Buta, and Man Singh. Their terrorism seems to be about fame and adventure, which contrasts with her religious and political extremism.
    • The hijackers land the plane in a desert oasis, and allow some passengers to leave before they make political demands (about which the narrator is vague). Eugene is allowed to leave after he provokes Tavleen into breaking his jaw. Gibreel then takes Eugene’s seat next to Saladin, and the two men talk. (This is when Gibreel tells Saladin his life story, as related in Chapter 2.) While there, the narrator explains for the first time that Gibreel is haunted by recurring serial dreams, in which certain stories continue to haunt him each time he sleeps. These dreams make up the content of several sections to follow.

      The hostages are held in the desert for 111 days. At one point, Tavleen strips to show the passengers the explosives that are strapped to her body. Gibreel rambles with increasing incoherence about reincarnation, and confides to Saladin that he only took the flight out of love for Alleluia. On the 110th day of the hijacking, Tavleen murders a passenger named Jalandri. The next day, they take off for London. However, one of the male hijackers gets into a fight with Tavleen over the English Channel, and they lose control of the aircraft.
  5. Analysis
    • The Satanic Verses is famous for its fanciful – and at times, controversial – portrayal of organized religion. The opening section, which details the back story of the two main characters, illustrates the uneasy interplay between Islam and secularism in their lives. Gibreel and Saladin grew up Muslim – albeit not particularly observant – and each abandoned his faith at some point before the hijacking. Their moral convictions are full of inconsistencies: before his religious crisis, Gibreel was extremely promiscuous; even after becoming secular, Saladin refused to date a Jewish woman. Further, they both have relationships with religion regardless of their personal beliefs. For instance, Gibreel became famous for embodying deities. If this section has a thesis about religion, it is that far from being purely theological, religion is bound up in cultural identity and cannot be escaped simply by becoming agnostic.
    • Zeeny’s comments on Indian identity introduce one of the novel’s major thematic issues. Gibreel and Saladin have both turned their back on their homeland, but their rationale and impulses are hardly pure and simple. Zeeny suggests that Indian culture is nothing more than a “take-the-best-leave-the-rest” amalgamation of other cultures. While looking at Changez’s Mughal tapestry, she elaborates: “individual identity was submerged to create a many-headed, many-brushed Over-artist who, literally, was Indian painting” (71). In other words, to be an Indian is to be a hybrid of several other cultures and histories. Saladin seems to believe that he can trade one identity for another, whereas Zeeny's understanding of identity is more multi-faceted. Not only can one not simply rid oneself of an identity, but an identity is also not a simple entity.
    • Indeed, Rushdie raises the question of whether it is possible to truly leave behind one’s culture. For example: in a moment of anger, Saladin urges his father to cut down his walnut tree, a reference to the North Indian tradition of planting a tree when a child is born and cutting it down or selling it when he is an adult. Although Saladin is trying to demonstrate his independence from his father and his native culture, his means of accomplishing this dovetails with the tradition’s original purpose –cutting down the tree is supposed to signify adulthood and independence, which is exactly what Saladin is trying to accomplish. Rushdie gladly embraces contradictions in his characters and their cultures, allowing them to embody two ideas at once, because that is precisely the point he wishes to explore. We can never be simply an expression of a clearly-articulated identity, because the complications of history demand we too are complicated. Our attempts to pretend otherwise only caus trouble.
    • Names and language are closely tied into this section’s theme of reincarnation. Gibreel and Saladin both change their names when they become adults. Their new names hint at the angelic and satanic roles that the narrator assigns them in the first chapter. Gibreel Farishta literally means ‘the angel Gibreel’ (or ‘Gabriel’), and Zeeny reveals that Saladin Chamcha means ‘Mister Toady” (55). Interestingly, although both men give up Islam as adults, their names continue to have Muslim connotations: ‘Gibreel’ is a direct reference to the Qur’an, and Saladin is a traditional Arab name. In the same way that our identities are never simple, neither can a name contain a simple answer. The characters will continue to reflect both angelic and satanic qualities, in a way that complicates the seeming obviousness of their names.
    • The men’s occupations also play into the novel’s preoccupation with rebirth. Acting is a profession that requires constant ‘reincarnation’ to adopt the personality of a new character. As a voice actor, Saladin relies entirely on language to create a character; this resonates with the fact that in this book, language forges identity - consider Saladin’s panic when his Indian accent starts to return. Although Gibreel is a film actor, there are certain parallels between his career and Saladin’s; for example, the Ganesh mask he wore in his first major role evokes the mask that Saladin wears in the television show about aliens. Because these characters are involved in an industry that requires an ever-shifting identity, they are perfect people through which to explore the idea that nobody is ever simply the person they profess to be.
    • Interestingly, Rushdie does not simply suggest these ideas and then explore them abstractly. Instead, he insists that the characters are literally transforming. Throughout the novel, they will take on distinct forms and guises, which both elucidates and complicates the concept of shifting identity. Not only are his characters shifting their identities, but they actually become other entities. He establishes this device even in Part I, by suggesting they will embody both an angel and a devil.
    • Finally, it is worth noting Rushdie's unique authorial style. His barrage of language is as notable for its erudition as it is for its casualness. The mixture of both banal cliche and heightened, stylized language only serves to reinforce the idea that everything contains within it a contradiction. Further, the narrator plays something of a deity himself, acknowledging that he has control of the narrative and willfully choosing which details to reveal and which to keep secret. This fanciful and profuse writing style not only establishes the voice as singular, but also reinforces many of the themes that the story explores.

The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part II - "Mahound"
  1. Summary
    • As Gibreel transforms into an angel, he has a series of visions: of his mother, of three little girls, of a businessman. As the images become clearer, we realize that the businessman is Mahound, the main character of the novel’s second, parallel storyline. This storyline gives an alternate version of the founding of Islam, and Mahound is an antiquated form of the name Mohammed. All of Mahound's story takes place in Gibreel's dreams.
    • Mahound climbs Mount Cone (presumably a reference to Alleluia Cone), where he receives visions that inspire him to start a new, monotheistic religion in the ancient, crumbling city of Jahilia. Jahilia is a polytheistic desert city that embraces its excess of sand. In a digression, the narrator provides a revisionist retelling of how the prophet Ibrahim abandoned his daughter Hagar in the desert; she was fortunately rescued by the angel Gibreel. The narrator calls Ibrahim a bastard and portrays Hagar as the real heroine of the story.
    • Karim Abu Simbel is the Grandee of Jahilia; the Grandee is the head of its ruling council. The people of Jahilia worship pagan gods as well as Allah, and Abu Simbel has become rich by taxing the offerings left at the pagan temples. One day, he is walking through the markets with Baal, one of Jahilia's poets. In Jahilia, it is customary for relatives of murder victims to assassinate the murderer themselves, and to write a poem commemorating the vengeance. Since “few revengers are gifted in rhyme," Baal has a lucrative practice in composing assassination poems (100).
    • Abu Simbel suddenly assaults Baal – supposedly for having an affair with his wife, Hind – and then insists Baal write poetry making fun of Mahound and his ragtag group of followers, who are confusing people with their revolutionary talk of monotheism. They insist that Allah is the only god. (At this point, the parallels between Mahound and Mohammed should be clear, if they were not already.) That night, Abu Simbel reflects on his fear of Mahound, and decides he will allow Hind to continue her affair with Baal. Baal's poetry is vicious and popular, and serves to enflame the hatred of and scorn for Mahound's new religion.
    • Abu Simbel summons Mahound and asks him to change his theology: he wants Mahound to recognize the town’s three patron deities as demigods under Allah. In particular, he wants recognition of the goddess Al-lat. He promises to convert all of Jahilia and cease the persecution if Mahound will submit to his proposal. Mahound is tempted by the offer, and asks his uncle Hamza and three disciples for counsel. They rightly warn that Abu Simpel is trying to compromise his integrity, but urge him to climb Mount Cone to receive wisdom from the archangel Gibreel, who gave him his initial visions. Our Gibreel, who has been watching the vision passively, is shocked that the characters are suddenly asking him what to do. He realizes that his perspective on the story keeps shifting - sometimes, he watches from above, and sometimes is involved in the action. In this case, he has been recruited as a crucial, active participant. In a surreal sequence, Gibreel and Mahound wrestle together with theological uncertainty.
    • Mahound returns from the mountain, and his disciples notice the distant look in his eyes that marks the receipt of a vision. They follow him to the town's poetry festival, where most of Jahilia has gathered. There, Mahound announces his embrace of the town’s patron goddesses, and Abu Simpel gladly leads the citizens into a bow before Allah. However, Hamza and the disciples are disappointed that Mahound compromised his theology to gain converts. That night, Hind’s brothers try to assassinate Mahound’s three main disciples, but Hamza interferes and kills the assassins.
    • After discussing the new theology with Hind, Mahound feels doubt, and he returns to the mountain for more guidance. There, he realizes that his vision was not from Gibreel but from the devil, and that the verses recited at the poetry festival were not God’s word; they were “satanic verses” (126). He publicly repudiates his earlier proclamation. Abu Simbel and Hind retaliate harshly, by murdering Mahound’s elderly wife and by confining his followers to ghettoes. Ironically, the persecution increases the number of converts and eventually, Mahound and his followers flee Jahilia for the more tolerant city-state of Yathrib.
  2. Analysis
    • Some students may find this section confusing – after all, it is an elaborate description of Gibreel’s vision, and has with only a tenuous connection to Part I. However, “Mahound” is in fact the beginning of the novel’s most important subplot. It centers on the ‘satanic verses,’ which are drawn from a real incident in Islamic history. Just like in the novel, Mohammed allegedly embraced the existence of three female demigods in his home city of Mecca, but soon after repudiated the compromise as having been spoken by the devil. This story is considered apocryphal, and has been removed from the Qur'an. Historians of Islam continue to debate the meaning and historicity of the story.
    • Rushdie’s retelling of the mythology surrounding the satanic verses caused a massive controversy in the Muslim world. It was not only his embrace of the apocryphal story; it was also his consideration of Mohammed as a human being defined as much by self-interest as by piety. Most notably, the controversy led the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa – that is, an order for Muslims to kill Rushdie. The fatwa, which was declared in 1989, remains active today, according to the Associated Press. For many years, Rushdie had to live in hiding from fear for his life, and several other people associated with the book's publication were attacked and wounded; the Japanese translator was killed. Rushdie explained his point of view in a 1996 interview as follows: “I felt that I had inherited the culture without the belief, and that the stories belonged to me as well. And because they belonged to me they were mine to use, in, if you like, my way.”
    • The characters’ experiences resonate with Rushdie’s ideas about culture and religion. Gibreel and Saladin both lose their religious faith before the start of the novel, but they continue to live under religious influence. Gibreel makes his living by acting in religious films and associating himself with deities (which could be considered a type of blasphemy); Saladin identifies strongly with Muslim culture, despite his attempts to disavow his Muslim identity. The same might be said of the narrator, who retells Muslim stories in Part II but gives his own, non-traditional perspective on characters like Ibrahim, Hagar, and Mahound (i.e., Mohammed). Rushdie believes that culture belongs to everyone, and individuals are free to interpret it in their own way. We inherit our culture no matter how skeptical we might be about it. His characters and his narrator are textual examples of this philosophy.
    • Although Part II’s plot is a departure from that of Part I, there are certain stylistic features that carry over to give the novel a sense of aesthetic unity. For example, Rushdie continues to condense common words and expressions into compound phrases, such as “goodguy badguy” (127). His stylistic use of slang and cliche have an ironic, anachronistic air when he applies them to the ancient story of Mahound. The narrator also compares parts of Gibreel’s vision to a Bollywood film, analyzing how it fits into that genre’s narrative conventions. He makes similar comparisons in Part I between his characters’ lives and Indian cinema. Also, the narrator continues to reflect upon his own omnipotence. He is aware that he is relating the dream of his own character, and in fact explores how that character (Gibreel) is confused by the power of omnipotence. Gibreel does not understand how his perspective keeps shifting - he watches from above, his eye meanders through the town, and he even becomes an active participant. In many ways, this confusion is a comment on the act of storytelling and perspective, which a reader tends to take for granted unless attention is drawn to it. Implicitly, this idea suggests that how we see a story impacts what it means to us, and by default, that truth will always be subjective.
    • Duality and opposites continue to be important motifs in this section. In Part I, Rushdie highlights the similarities and differences between two main characters, suggesting that each has the potential to be angelic and satanic. In Part II, the duality motif continues to resonate, albeit in more explicit ways. From the perspective of his followers and the people of Jahilia, Mahound is susceptible to both angelic and satanic forces. However, from the reader's perspective, this dichotomy is more complicated. We know that Mahound did not receive his message from the devil; he received it from Gibreel, who has been associated with Gabriel. On one hand, this suggests that Mahound's visions are somewhat self-generated; after all, he had political clout to gain by making the compromise with the Grandee. On the other hand, this contradiction suggests that Gibreel must confront his own inner conflict between angelic and satanic qualities. Both Mahound and Gibreel realize that human nature contains both earthly and divine components that often work against each other. As Rushdie describes it, “Gibreel in his dual role is both above-looking-down and below-staring-up. And both of them scared out of their minds by the transcendence of it.” (114)

The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part III - "Ellowen Deeowen"
  1. Chapter 1

    • The narrative shifts to the discovery of the main characters after they plummet from the Bostan.
    • The elderly and senile Rosa Diamond lives on the English coast. She sees Gibreel crawl out of the ocean, but in her senility believes she is seeing William the Conqueror. Saladin is also there, huddled in despair, but Rosa does not initially see him.
    • The men have undergone some physical changes during their fall. Gibreel’s previously awful breath has freshened, and he now literally glows. Saladin, on the other hand, now has both terrible breath and some tiny horns on his head. His personality also seems to have changed: he cannot remember significant portions of his past, and a sense of impending doom makes him hesitate to call his wife, Pamela.
    • Rosa invites the men to stay at her house. Saladin stays alone in his room, torn over whether to report his survival to his wife. When he finally calls the house, a man's voice answers, and Saladin quickly pretends he dialed the wrong number and hangs up. The mystery consumes him.
    • Some neighbors had spotted Gibreel and Saladin crawling from the water, and they reported the men to the police, assuming they were illegal immigrants. Fifty-seven officers arrive to arrest them, and they laugh at Saladin’s insistence that he is a British citizen. This is the moment that Saladin realizes he has grown horns. The officers do not arrest Gibreel, perhaps because he is dressed in a smoking jacket that belonged to Rosa's husband and carries himself as master of the house. However, the police are also attracted by the halo that now glows behind his head. As they drag Saladin from the house, he begs Gibreel for the help, but the latter man simply ignores him, as though in a trance.
  2. Chapter 2
    • Gibreel finds himself “in some sort of trance" (148). He does not understand why he has not called Alleluia, or why he allowed Saladin to be arrested. For the next few days, he recovers from his ordeal and listens to Rosa’s rambling stories about her life with her husband in Argentina. She tells him about Martín de la Cruz, a violent ostrich-hunter whom she loved, and his wife Aurora del Sol, who became Rosa’s enemy. Martín murdered Aurora’s lover, but Rosa and her husband, Don Enrique Diamond, helped cover up the crime.
    • Gibreel takes Rosa dancing for her eighty-ninth birthday, but the exertion proves too much for her, and she dies the following night. On her deathbed, she recounts a romantic encounter between herself and Martín, but it is unclear whether they actually had sex. Later, she and her husband murdered Martín; the government agreed not to press charges if Rosa and Enrique returned to England. In a surreal sequence, Gibreel lies down with Rosa in a boathouse; the incident echoes Rosa’s encounter with Martín.
  3. Chapter 3
    • After arresting Saladin, Officers Stein, Novak, and Bruno humiliate him by pulling down his pants. Saladin is shocked to find that he is starting to turn into a goat - he has grown fur and cloven hooves, and his voice sounds like incoherent bleating. Oddly, the police officers are unfazed by the transformation, and simply make jokes about Saladin’s enlarged penis. In his panic, Saladin excretes goat pellets, and the officers force him to eat them. They then have a discussion about voyeurism and surveillance while their inferiors beat Saladin up. Eventually, Saladin convinces them to check the computer for evidence that he is a citizen. When they realize he is indeed a British citizen, they worry about the repercussions, and then manufacture reasons to detain him so they can defend themselves. They also beat him further.
    • Saladin wakes up in a hospital, where he is being treated for pneumonia. This treatment involves a physical therapist - Hyacinth Phillips - literally beating the fluid from his lungs by punching him in the chest. Officer Stein visits and warns Saladin not to file a complaint about his treatment, since his only witnesses are gone – Rosa has died and Gibreel has vanished. That night, a manticore (a man with a tiger’s head) visits Saladin and explains that many others in this ward have been turned into animals. He explains that the English are responsible. “They describe us,” he says. “That’s all. They have the power of description, and we succumb to the pictures they construct” (174).
    • Hyacinth (who, we learn, is black) recruits Saladin to join an organization of transformed humans. They all escape from the hospital, and Hyacinth and Saladin head off together to London.
  4. Chapter 4
    • The narrator tells us who answered the phone when Saladin called Pamela before leaving Rosa's. It was Saladin's old friend and Pamela's new lover, Jumpy Joshi. Jumpy went to college with Saladin, and had long been jealous of his Saladin's success with women. During his absence, Jumpy started visiting Pamela, who was drinking a lot, and they fell into a sexual relationship. Jumpy recognized Saladin's voice on the night he called, which is troubling because they all assumed him dead in the explosion.
    • After reflecting on Saladin's artificiality, Jumpy guiltily confesses to Pamela that Saladin has survived. Although she initially believes him, a receptionist at the airline informs her that his survival is impossible. Pamela, furious, spends a few days pampering herself at a luxury hotel. Pamela and Jumpy both privately recall their complex relationship with Saladin. Jumpy recalls dragging the reluctant Saladin to an anti-war demonstration, where he humiliated the actor by jumping on the Prime Minister’s car. Pamela, meanwhile, recalls how she was attracted to Saladin because he was Indian, while Saladin was attracted to her because she was English.
    • After a few days in the hotel, Jumpy and Pamela realize that they still love each other, so they meet to make love for seven days straight. At the end of the week, Saladin breaks into his house and finds them in each other’s arms.
  5. Chapter 5
    • Gibreel boards a train to London, daydreaming about seeing Alleluia again. He mutters her name aloud, and John Maslama, a wealthy Indian immigrant sitting in Gibreel's compartment, believes that the actor is praying. Maslama starts a conversation about religion, and it quickly becomes clear that he is a fundamentalist lunatic. He recognizes Gibreel from his film career, but soon begins to wonder whether this Gibreel is an imposter. To diffuse the tension, Gibreel pretends to be an angel, come to earth to decide whether humanity is worth saving. Maslama praises the Lord, and Gibreel flees to another compartment.
    • Near London, Alleluia gives a lecture at a girls' school about her experiences climbing Everest. She describes seeing ghosts on the mountain, including an apparition of Maurice Wilson, a yogi who tried to scale the peak alone in 1934, but died in the attempt. The narrator tells about her life. Despite her marked success in mountain-climbing, she had recently been diagnosed with flat arches, which cause her pain while walking and make the prospect of greater ascents unlikely.
    • On his way to see Allie, Gibreel has visions of Rekha Merchant. These disturb him so much that he collapses near Alleluia's house. She finds him there, in what seems a miraculous reunion.
  6. Analysis
    • In this return to the London plot, Rushdie examines the consequences of living in a foreign culture. One of the novel's central themes is the nature of being an immigrant, an expression of the 'other' in a foreign culture. The most dramatic of these consequences is Saladin’s transformation into a demonic goat, which, the manticore explains, is a reflection of how the English see him and other minorities. Immigrants are forced to see themselves as animals, and ultimately accept the description as true. Ironically, Saladin wants nothing more than to be an actual British person, and yet he now realizes that his Indian heritage has always defined him in their eyes.
    • This theme resonates throughout this section, in both fantastic and ordinary ways. Some names - like Saladin's or Jumpy Joshi's - have been anglicized. Pamela admits to herself that her marriage is based on racial identification, both on her part and Saladin's. The police brutality towards Saladin echoes the experience of many immigrants when they are deported. The fact that the police are unfazed by Saladin's transformation suggests they have always viewed foreigners as animals in any case. Lastly, the manticore is notably black, not Indian, which suggests that Rushdie's interest in immigration and otherness transcends his own heritage. In later sections, he explores the various degrees of racism that exist even amongst minorities in a foreign country.
    • Another important theme in this section is the relationship between stories and real life. In a telling moment from Chapter 2, Rosa recalls how the Argentine villagers interpreted her brush with typhus as “an allegory of the old estate’s decline” (155). There is a layer of self-reflexivity here; the villagers are interpreting reality as if it were a story, but of course, their interpretation is itself part of a story that Rosa is telling to Gibreel. This moment suggests that real life and stories are inextricably bound to each other; the methods we use to interpret literature can also help us understand the world around us. Gibreel's identity is likewise always complicated by the roles he has played in religious films. Perhaps he is angelic because of these roles, or perhaps these roles made him angelic, or perhaps the truth lies in our general inability to delineate truth from fiction. The answer is never provided, but rather forces us to consider the ways in which we mistake stories for reality.
    • On a related note, this section includes a multitude of allusions. Several are references to several Western fairy tales, including Red Riding Hood and Snow White. “Here I am, in Grandmother’s house. Her big eyes, hands, teeth," Saladin thinks to himself as he recovers from the explosion (140). Later, Gibreel describes Rosa as “white as snow and as red as blood and as black as ebony” (156). This is another example of characters using stories to make sense of reality, but it also ties into the novel’s examination of the immigrant experience. Saladin and Gibreel refer to the mythologies of Indian, English, and Islamic cultures. This gives them unique perspectives and insights on the world that other, non-immigrant characters, cannot have. This perspective is of course echoed in that of the narrator, who mixes a myriad of allusions. In this section, in addition to the synthesis of Islamic mythology with British mythology (that of William the Conquerer), Rushdie alludes to the work of Jorge Luis Borges, both in the stories about Argentina and in the description of the manticore.
    • The religious symbolism is unceasing in the book. Sometimes, it is represented through the use of holy numbers. For instance, Jumpy and Pamela make love for seven days. There are also several sets of characters in the work who function as trinities. In Part III, the immigration officers are presented as a trinity. The secondary characters in this novel often appear in groups of three; the previous section featured the three goddesses, as well as Mahound’s three important disciples: Bilal, Salman, and Khalid. Rushdie explicitly acknowledges the religious significance of these triads: “The officer, Stein ...” he writes, “appeared to be the leader of the trinity, or at least the primus inter pares” (165). It is important not to assume that Rushdie is attempting allegory; that is, the characters do not necessarily represent particular religious figures. Instead, the intent seems to be to imbue the entire story with a synthesis of both mythic significance and grounded reality, to suggest that both are intertwined, both in the world and within us.
    • Occasionally, the narrator offers clues that can help readers analyze the novel’s style. For example, Rushdie writes about Rosa Diamond: “Repetition had become a comfort in her antiquity; the well-worn phrases, unfinished business, grandstand view, made her feel solid, unchanging, sempiternal, instead of the creature of cracks and absences she knew herself to be” (134). Rushdie himself includes many ‘well-worn phrases’ and expressions in his characters’ thoughts and dialogue. The comfort Rosa takes in verbal repetition evokes the way that Rushdie’s writing style unites the novel’s two tenuously connected plotlines.

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: See - The Satanic Verses.

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2022
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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