- About The Satanic Verses
- The Satanic Verses Summary
- Character List
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary And Analysis. Parts:-
- "The Angel Gibreel"
- "Ellowen Deeowen"
- "A City Visible but Unseen"
- "Return to Jahilia"
- "The Angel Azraeel"
- "The Parting of the Arabian Sea"
- "A Wonderful Lamp"
- The Satanic Verses and Immigration
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"Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Introduction"
Source: Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide1
- About The Satanic Verses
- The Satanic Verses Summary
- Character List
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary And Analysis. Parts:-
- "The Angel Gibreel"
- "Ellowen Deeowen"
- "A City Visible but Unseen"
- "Return to Jahilia"
- "The Angel Azraeel"
- "The Parting of the Arabian Sea"
- "A Wonderful Lamp"
- The Satanic Verses and Immigration
- About The Satanic Verses
- The Satanic Verses is a magical realist epic with three major plotlines. The first of these plotlines follows two Indian actors, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, after they miraculously survive a plane crash over the English Channel. The second and third plotlines are elaborate descriptions of dreams that Gibreel has after the crash. One focuses on the Muslim prophet Mahound (based on Mohammed), as he wrestles with his faith to found a new religion. Another follows Ayesha, a prophet who leads the people of her village on a futile pilgrimage. Rushdie draws on a variety of influences, including Islamic history and theology, Bollywood cinema, and immigration politics.
- The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie’s fourth novel. When it was published in 1988, the author was already well-known and critically respected. His novel Midnight’s Children, published eight years before, had won the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and was a bestseller. So when The Satanic Verses was published, it was poised to garner plenty of attention from critics and the public at large.
- And attract attention it did. Some Muslim clerics and literary critics found Rushdie’s use of Islamic theology very offensive. The main point of contention was his exploration of the ‘satanic verses,’ a series of possibly apocryphal verses in the Qur’an, in which Mohammed seems to recognize ‘Allah’s daughters’ – three female demigods. The story generally goes that Satan tricked Mohammed into recognizing the goddesses, but Mohammed retracted what he had said once he realized he had been fooled. However, this piece of Islamic history is extremely controversial, and some Muslim scholars argue that it never happened at all.
- Several countries with Muslim populations, including India, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and South Africa, banned The Satanic Verses, although the censorship often ended up becoming as controversial as the book itself. In February 1989, the Iranian Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini declared a fatwa on Rushdie – that is, a call for his murder. As a result, the United Kingdom - where Rushdie is a citizen - severed its diplomatic relations with Iran. Rushdie successfully went into hiding, a period of his life that he chronicles in his 2012 memoir, Joseph Anton. However, the Italian and Japanese translators of the novel, as well as its Norwegian publisher, were violently attacked; the Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, died of his wounds.
- In later years, both sides made attempts to resolve the conflict. The Iranians promised to retract the fatwa in order to improve their relationship with the United Kingdom. For his part, Rushdie made an official apology to Muslims, and even converted to Islam a year after the book’s publication. However, none of these attempts were long-lasting. Rushdie stopped being a Muslim shortly after his conversion, and Iran eventually reaffirmed the fatwa. The novel remains controversial to this day, although it has also been recognized for its stylistic virtuosity, and is studied by many scholars of postcolonial literature.
- The Satanic Verses Character List
- Gibreel: “For fifteen years," main character Gibreel Farishta was "the biggest star in the history of Indian movies” (11). Shortly before his fortieth birthday, he becomes seriously ill but miraculously recovers. However, instead of returning to Bollywood, he tries to move to London. On the way there, his plane is hijacked and explodes over the English Channel. He and Saladin are the only survivors of the explosion and the subsequent fall. After the accident, Gibreel begins to take on the personality and physical characteristics of the archangel Gibreel – although it is unclear if this transformation is real or a result of schizophrenia.
- Saladin: Born Salahuddin Chamchawala, Saladin Chamcha moved to London to study as a teenager. He has always loved British culture and eschews his Indian heritage as much as possible. He now works as a voice actor and is estranged from his father, his only remaining family in India. After the air accident, he transforms into an incarnation of Satan, much to his dismay.
- Rekha: Rekha Merchant is a wealthy, married neighbor with whom Gibreel Farishta was having an affair before he left India. She killed herself and her children by jumping off the roof of her apartment building after Gibreel left her for Alleluia Cone.
- Pimple Billimoria: An up-and-coming actress who was scheduled to perform with Gibreel on the day he disappeared from India. She eventually plays the role of Ayesha in The Parting of the Arabian Sea, a film Gibreel makes based on the Titlipur plotline.
- Naima Najmuddin: Gibreel Farishta’s mother, who died when he was a teenager.
- Babasaheb Mhatre: The General Secretary of the lunch-porters’ guild in Bombay. When Gibreel's father died, the Babasaheb invited Gibreel to live with him; he later arranged for Gibreel's first job in the film industry.
- Alleluia: Alleluia (Allie) Cone is a beautiful English mountain-climber. Gibreel falls in love with her shortly after recovering from his illness, and eventually moves in with her in London. Despite her own personal issues, she is a faithful helper to Gibreel when he is treated for schizophrenia.
- Changez: Saladin’s father, Changez Chamchawala, owns a successful business manufacturing agricultural sprays. He is also a nationalist politician. He has a strained relationship with his son.
- Nasreen: Nasreen Chamchawala is Saladin's mother, who dies when he is a young man.
- Pamela: Pamela Lovelace is Saladin's troubled young wife.
- Zeeny: Zeeny Vakil is Saladin’s lover in Bombay. She is a fearless, sexually aggressive writer. She published a controversial text on Indian identity, and is active in the communist movement.
- George Miranda: A Marxist filmmaker with whom Saladin connects upon his return to India.
- Bhupen Gandhi: A friend of Zeeny’s who works as a poet and journalist.
- Mimi Mamoulian: A highly skilled, Jewish voice actress in London. She and Saladin considered starting a relationship before the start of the novel, but decided against it because of their religious differences. She eventually becomes involved with Billy Battuta.
- Nasreen the Second: The woman Changez married after his first wife died. The fact that she shares a name with Saladin’s mother fuels Saladin’s anger toward his father.
- Vallabhai: The Chamchawala's housekeeper, and husband to Kasturba.
- Kasturba: Vallabhai's wife, who dresses as Nasreen as a fetish for Changez.
- Eugene Dumsday: A flamboyantly-dressed American missionary who sits next to Saladin on the Bostan before being released.
- Tavleen: One of the Bostan hijackers. Although she is a beautiful woman, Saladin suspects she is more willing to kill than her male comrades are.
- Dara, Buta, and Man Singh: The male Bostan hijackers. Unlike Tavleen, they are reluctant to use violence to achieve their goals.
- Jalandri: A passenger who is murdered by Tavleen.
- Mahound: The main prophet of Submission in the Jahilia plotline. He is an analog for Mohammed. Before becoming a prophet, he worked as a businessman. Although he is initially sincere in trying to spread his faith, he eventually becomes corrupted by power, and turns into a ruthless theocrat.
- Abu Simbel: Karim Abu Simbel is the head of Jahilia's ruling council (the Grandee). He initially fears Submission because it weakens his power, but he eventually converts to it.
- Baal: A poet in Jahilia who writes verse against Submission when Mahound first starts to spread the faith. He remains a dissident even when the religion takes control of the city.
- Hind: Karim Abu Simbel's wife, not to be confused with Hind Sufyan in the London plot. She has an affair with Baal, and despises Submission.
- Bilal: One of Mahound's disciples, who also appears briefly at the beginning of the Titlipur plotline.
- Khalid: Mahound's most ruthless disciple.
- Salman: A Persian disciple of Mahound who eventually becomes critical of Submission.
- Hamza: Mahound's uncle; Hind kills him at the end of Part II.
- Rosa Diamond: A senile woman who sees Gibreel and Saladin wash up on the beach after the plane crash. She hosts them in her house.
- Don Enrique Diamond: Rosa’s late Argentinian husband. She calls him Henry.
- Martín de la Cruz: An ostrich-hunter whom Rosa met in Argentina, and with whom she might have carried on an affair.
- Aurora del Sol: Wife to Martín de la Cruz, and rival to Rosa during her days in Argentina.
- Juan Julia: Aurora del Sol’s lover, also called the Vulture. Martín de la Cruz murders him, but the Diamonds help him cover up the crime.
- Doctor Babington: The doctor on the Diamond estate in Argentina.
- Officer Stein, Officer Bruno, and Officer Novak: The immigration officers who arrest Saladin. They beat and humiliate him in the Black Maria on the way to London.
- Hyacinth Phillips: Saladin’s physical therapist when he is hospitalized in London for pneumonia.
- Jumpy Joshi: Childhood friend of Saladin and the lover of Saladin’s wife, Pamela. He eventually moves in with her, and impregnates her.
- Muhammad Sufyan: Jumpy’s intellectual uncle and neighbor, and the owner of the Shaandaar Café. He and his family help shelter Saladin after his transformation.
- John Maslama: A wealthy Indian immigrant who talks to Gibreel on a train to London. He owns the Hot Wax nightclub and record stores, and eventually sells Gibreel the trumpet that he names the archangel Azraeel.
- The Imam: A ruthless cleric who, with Gibreel's help, fights the goddess Al-Lat to control the state of Desh at the beginning of Part IV.
- Ayesha: Three characters in this novel are named Ayesha.
- The first one to be introduced is the empress of Desh whom the Imam wishes to overthrow in the short dream at the beginning of Part IV.
- Most prominently, another woman named Ayesha is a main character in the Titlipur plotline. This Ayesha is an insane foundling who leads her entire village on a pilgrimage to the Arabian Sea, on what she believes are orders from the archangel Gibreel.
- In the Jahilia plotline, Ayesha is also the name of a fifteen-year-old prostitute. She calls herself this after Mahound's youngest and most beautiful wife.
- Mirza Saeed: Mirza Saeed Akhtar is a zamindar, or landowner, in the village of Titlipur. He wrestles with desire for Ayesha, whom he and his wife Mishal adopted as a girl. When Ayesha leads the pilgrimage to the sea, he does not believe that she is a prophet, but nevertheless comes along to protect his wife.
- Bibiji: A local saint in the village of Titlipur.
- Osman: A clown, and one of Ayesha's suitors. He follows her on the pilgrimage, but eventually loses his faith in her.:
- Mishal: Mishal Akhtar is Mirza Saeed’s wife. She wants to conceive a child, but is hampered by the fact that she and her husband have long since lost their sexual passion for each other. When she is diagnosed with breast cancer, Ayesha promises that she will be cured if the entire village completes a pilgrimage to the Arabian Sea. She becomes one of Ayesha's most devoted followers.
- Mrs. Qureishi: Mishal Akhtar’s mother, who accompanies her on the pilgrimage.
- Mr. Qureishi: Mishal Akhtar’s father, and the director of the state bank. He lives in the city, but briefly appears to try to convince Mishal to leave the pilgrimage.
- Sri Srinivas: A toy merchant in one of Titlipur’s neighboring villages. Although he is a Hindu, he joins the pilgrimage.
- Hind Sufyan: Muhammad Sufyan’s wife, not to be confused with Abu Simbel’s wife in the Jahilia plot. Hind Sufyan is very religious, so she becomes suspicious when Saladin appeals to her family for help after becoming a demon.
- Mishal Sufyan: Muhammad and Hind Sufyan’s seventeen-year-old daughter, who is having an affair with the lawyer Hanif Johnson.
- Anahita: Anahita is Muhammad and Hind Sufyan’s fifteen-year-old daughter. She is foul-mouthed and rebellious.
- Billy Battuta: Mimi Mamoulian’s Pakistani boyfriend. He hosts a travel show, but also makes money as a scam artist.
- Hal Valance: The producer of The Aliens Show, on which Saladin acted before the plane crash.
- Baby: Hal Valance’s young wife.
- Sisodia: S.S. Sisodia is a stuttering producer of Bollywood films, and a manipulative presence in Gibreel's life.
- Hanif Johnson: A well-to-do lawyer and prospective candidate for Prime Minister; he has an affair with Mishal Sufyan.
- Pinkwalla: A deejay at the Hot Wax nightclub in London. He is friends with Mishal Sufyan and Hanif Johnson.
- Otto Cone: Alleluia’s Polish father. He survived a concentration camp during World War Two, an experience that dramatically affected Alleluia’s childhood.
- Alicja Cone: Alleluia's mother, who begs her to leave Gibreel. After her husband Otto's death, she remarries and moves to Stanford, California.
- Elena: Alleluia’s older sister. She was a model, and died of a drug overdose.
- Jack Brunel: An animator, and one of Otto Cone’s friends who has an unrequited crush on Alleluia.
- Orphia Phillips: A ticket vendor who interacts with Gibreel after his transformation to angel. She is Hyacinth Phillips's sister.
- Uriah Mosely: Orphia Phillips's co-worker ex-boyfriend, who causes her great pain by abandoning her for Rochelle Watkins.
- Rochelle Watkins: Uriah Mosely's new lover.
- Ibrahim: A butcher in Jahilia who sells illicit pork; Also the name of the ancient religious figure who abandoned his daughter Hagar in the desert.
- Musa: A man from Jahilia who questions the fact that Mahound has twelve wives despite the fact that Submission only allows a man four wives.
- Dr. Uhuru Simba: A black activist who is arrested for the Granny Ripper murders.
- Charlie Sellers: Saladin’s agent.
- Amin: A waiter at the Shaandaar Café who replaces Mishal Sufyan.
- Antoinette Roberts: Uhuru Simba’s mother, who leads the campaign for his acquittal.
- Inspector Stephen Kinch: London’s chief of police.
- Muhammad Din: Sarpanch Muhammad Din is the head of the village council in Titlipur, and husband to Khadija.
- Khadija: Sarpanch Muhammad Din’s elderly wife, the first of the Titlipur pilgrims to die en route to the Arabian Sea.
- Panikkar: Changez Chamchawala’s hospice doctor.
- Swatilekha: Bhupen Gandhi’s new girlfriend, introduced in the final pages of the novel.
- Mrs. Mhatre: Wife of Babasaheb Mhatre, Mrs. Mhatre is characterized by the stifling affection she shows her husband. Babasaheb adopts Gibreel in large part because he hopes an adopted son will dilute those affections.
- Maurice Wilson: A yogi who attempted to scale Everest alone in 1934, and who died in the attempt. Alleluia sees his ghost both on the mountain and throughout the city.
- Bilal X: One of the Imam's disciples in the vision that opens Part IV.
- Al-lat: One of the pre-Islam pagan goddesses that Mahound accepts in the 'satanic verses' episode. In Part IV, Gibreel fights and defeats Al-lat at the Imam's behest.
- The Satanic Verses Glossary
- avatar: an incarnation of a deity on earth; usually mentioned in reference to Hinduism
- ayah: a female servant or governess
- beedi: a type of flavored cigarette, popular in India
- Black Maria: the traditional English police van
- dajjal: a false prophet in Islam
- dhaba: an inexpensive highway diner
- estancia: a large estate in Argentina
- gazal: a type of elegiac poetry with a set structure
- Hajj: the pilgrimage to Mecca, which all Muslims are required to make once during their lifetime (unless they are too ill or poor to do so)
- kurta: a long, loose-fitting shirt worn in South Asia
- manticore: a mythical creature with a human head, the body of a lion or tiger, and the tail of a serpent
- panchayat: a council that governs a village or small town in India
- pir: a Sufi mystic or religious leader
- purdah: the system of concealing women from men, which includes modest clothing as well as physical separation in the home and the community
- Satanic verses: a series of verses in the Qur'an that refer to Allah's daughters; they are a source of great controversy among Muslim scholars - some argue that they never existed at all, while others argue that they came from Satan, and that Mohammed quickly repudiated them
- tiffin: lunch, or another light afternoon meal
- turbot: a species of flatfish
- untouchable: a reference to the lowest Indian caste; members of this caste were considered literally untouchable by members of higher castes, and were considered dirty and forced to live separately from others (Since 1950, India has made an effort to eradicate the caste system, although members of low castes still face discrimination in certain circles.)
- zamindar: a landlord
- zenana: an area - usually part of a house - reserved for women
- The Satanic Verses Themes
- Reincarnation: Rushdie addresses the theme of reincarnation through methods both subtle and explicit. Obviously, reincarnation is central to the novel's primary conceit: the transformation of Gibreel and Saladin into an angel and a demon. However, there are also less blatant examples of characters being reborn or renewed. These include Alleluia, whose life changes for the better after she climbs Mount Everest, and Mishal Sufyan, who marries her lover and becomes a responsible adult after the deaths of her parents. Although these characters do not literally die, they each suffer a catastrophic event that leads them to personal revelation. Even Saladin's newfound maturity at the end of the novel can be considered an example of maturity; he changes his name and becomes a new person based on the lessons he has learned from his time as a demon. Overall, the novel is concerned with questions of identity and transformation, and suggests that a new identity usually requires the death of a previous one.
- Miracles: One of the most puzzling aspects of The Satanic Verses is its treatment of miracles. Rushdie generally demonstrates a deep skepticism of religion. However, there are numerous miracles in the story – the main characters transform; Ayesha controls butterflies; or the Londoners have dreams of Saladin as the Goatman. Although the narrator includes information that calls the miracles into question – for example, revealing that Gibreel is a diagnosed schizophrenic or that Ayesha hears the word of God through pop songs – he never fully discounts them. At the same time that Gibreel is mentally unwell, he is seen to levitate by several others. The reader is left to puzzle out whether the miracles are real or imagined, literal or metaphorical. This struggle, Rushdie suggests, is something that the faithful and the non-faithful alike must experience when trying to decide what they believe, especially in a world that has the potential for both marvels and banality.
- Indian identity: Indian identity proves to be a fraught concept in The Satanic Verses, as each character grapples with its meaning. In some cases, Rushdie is straightforward and even academic in his exploration of Indian culture. One example is Zeeny Vakil's book, which analyzes Indian identity as a product of pastiche and appropriation. However, Saladin's struggle with his Indian identity is much more emotional and abstract. It means different things to him over the course of his lifetime, and its meaning is often bound up with personal events, like his molestation at the age of thirteen. Overall, the novel suggests that Indian identity is both an absolute quantity that can be considered intellectually, and an enigma whose meaning is unique for each individual. Further, it suggests that Indian identity - like any identity - cannot be understood as a binary construction (i.e. Indian or not Indian) but rather is to be understood in each individual as an amalgamation of history, culture, and personal experience.
- Exploitation: Rushdie portrays many instances of exploitation, from the romantic to the geopolitical. Gibreel and Saladin both take advantage of others, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes by choice. Gibreel is both a perpetrator and a victim of interpersonal exploitation. He benefits from Alleluia's selfless love for him, while never truly trusting her; meanwhile, his producer Sisodia takes advantage of his mental illness to produce a profitable film. Saladin's experiences with exploitation often have geopolitical significance; for example, he takes advantage of the Sufyans' hospitality despite his private objections that they are 'not British.' Rushdie suggests that in a global world with such a complicated history, the human potential for exploitation is almost innate. Our struggle comes in recognizing this and deciding how to react to it.
- Mental illness: Several times over the course of the novel, the narrator posits mental illness as an alternative explanation for seemingly supernatural phenomena. For instance, it is never entirely clear whether Gibreel actually becomes angelic, or if the changes are a product of his schizophrenia. Likewise, the Titlipur plot hinges on the ambiguity of whether Ayesha is a prophet or insane. Further, one character's potential insanity often affects many others - examples are the dreams Londoners have of the goat-man, or the way Mahound's visions change his world. By exploring mental illness this way, Rushdie suggests that dreams and delusions are as much a part of the human experience as real events are, and should be taken seriously. They often carry as much weight and profundity as more banal events.
- Faith and doubt: The London, Jahilia, and Titlipur storylines all feature characters who wrestle with religious doubt. In each case, characters whom we might normally expect to be absolutely certain about their faith – like Mahound and Ayesha – instead have to deliberate and ponder over what they believe true. Secular characters similarly face the same struggle; Mirza Saeed, Gibreel, and Saladin must all rethink their atheism when faced with evidence of supernatural events. One common feature of these struggles is that the characters are never entirely certain, and they are thereby forced to take personal responsibility for their beliefs. Characters like Ayesha and the Imam – who are absolutely convinced of their correctness – inevitably grow corrupt because they have never experienced doubt. On the other hand, characters who doubt grow through their inner struggles. The novel suggests that each person has both angelic and satanic potential, and must forever struggle between them. Overall, Rushdie seems to suggest that religion is a powerful and difficult aspect of our lives and history, one that deserves and requires personal struggle.
- Racism: Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses in a climate of British conservative backlash against immigrants – particularly against South Asian ones, who comprise one of the largest minority groups in England. The novel addresses racism as an unfortunate but inevitable part of the immigrant experience. This theme manifests in minor moments, such as Gibreel's encounters with an anti-immigrant pamphleteer, and in more major ones, like when Saladin is beaten by the police. Further, the novel's arguable climax is affected by a riot against perceived police racism. Rushdie is fairly explicit about this theme – he suggests that racism is what turns Saladin and other immigrants into animals, a commentary on prejudice's dehumanizing effect. Finally, this theme connects to many of the others by being another instance of the way people exploit one another along a binary construction, rather than trying to understand the complicated personalities and histories of each individual.
- The Satanic Verses Quotes and Analysis
- “Damn you, India ... To hell with you, I escaped your clutches long ago, you won’t get your hooks into me again, you cannot drag me back.”
→ Saladin Chamcha, Page 35
Early in the novel, Saladin Chamcha makes this vehement proclamation as he prepares to return home to London from his acting stint in Bombay. However, much of The Satanic Verses is devoted to exploring how a person can never truly 'escape the clutches' of his native culture, try as he might. It is also worth noting Rushdie's use of personification here. To Saladin, India is not just a frustrating place, but is in fact a malevolent presence that tries to harm him. A person's history and culture is in fact an active presence towards defining him. Finally, Saladin's references to hell and damnation foreshadow his transformation into a devil later in the story.
- “It isn’t easy to be a brilliant, successful woman in a city where the gods are female but the females are merely goods.”
→ Narrator, Page 120
Abu Simbel’s vicious wife Hind is generally not portrayed sympathetically. However, Rushdie gives us some insight into her psyche at the beginning of the Jahilia plotline. His pithy wordplay – typical of this novel’s style – reveals a contradiction in how women are treated in Jahilia. However, Rushdie’s observation applies to many of the places and situations in the novel. In London, Bombay, and Titlipur, women are revered but repressed, just like in Jahilia. This influences the behavior of characters like Alleluia, Zeeny, and Ayesha, all of whom resort to drastic acts – be it climbing mountains, organizing demonstrations, or leading pilgrimages – to prove that they are more than ‘mere goods.’
- “Higher Powers had taken an interest, it should have been obvious to them both, and such Powers (I am, of course, speaking of myself) have a mischievous, almost a wanton attitude to tumbling flies.”
→ Narrator, Page 137
In The Satanic Verses, Allah never appears, but other “Higher Powers” meddle in the characters’ lives. There are the archangels and the goddesses we meet in Gibreel’s dreams, but the narrator is perhaps the most potent higher power of all. In some sense, he replaces Allah; after all, he explicitly reminds us that as the narrator, he has absolute power over the characters and the story. Here, the narrator’s self-reference reminds us that we are reading fiction. In the real world, Rushdie seems to suggest, people’s lives are influenced by external forces like politics, history, and perhaps even the gods. In the realm of the novel, though, the narrator reigns supreme. All in all, this quote reminds us that we do not always have as much control over ourselves and our identities as we would like to pretend.
- “The humiliation of it! He was – had gone to some lengths to become – a sophisticated man! Such degradations might be all very well for riff-raff from villages in Sylhet or the bicycle-repair shops of Gujranwala, but he was cut from different cloth!”
→ Narrator, Page 164
Saladin is arguably the most dynamic character in The Satanic Verses. Unlike Gibreel or any of the secondary characters, his personality changes in response to the things he learns. His description of South Asians in this passage is typical of his worldview early in the novel: he feels superior to other Indians because he has succeeded in making a life in London, and thereby distancing himself from his heritage. Saladin's condescending attitude toward the less privileged classes contrasts starkly with the views of other characters, like Zeeny, Jumpy, or Pamela, all of whom participate in left-wing political groups. Saladin's experiences – being turned into a demon, and losing many of his London friends in the Brickhall fires – teach him to embrace his Indian identity and respect those who are less fortunate. He comes to realize that one does not have nearly as much control over his life as he might think, and thus is he more tolerant of the complications he encounters in both people and society.
- “The body of Al-Lat has shrivelled on the grass, leaving behind only a dark stain; and now every clock in the capital city of Desh begins to chime, and goes on unceasingly, beyond twelve, beyond twenty-four, beyond one thousand and one, announcing the end of Time, the hour that is beyond measuring, the hour of the exile’s return, of the victory of water over wine, of the commencement of the Untime of the Imam.”
→ Narrator, Page 222
In the Jahilia and Titlipur plotlines, Rushdie rarely favors one religious faith over the other. Despite his strident criticisms of Islam, he presents Hindu and pagan faiths as equally dogmatic. Because of this, some readers might be confused by this passage, in which Rushdie suggests that Al-Lat’s death will result in Desh being enslaved by the Imam. However, it is important to remember that Al-Lat is also portrayed as tyrannical and violent in her fight with Gibreel. This passage, then, is less an elegy for Al-Lat than a requiem for religious freedom in general. Every god or religion deserves an elegy when it fades, but likewise does it deserve censure when it oversteps its bounds. Like people themselves, religion is capable of both angelic and satanic potentials.
- “While non-tint neo-Georgians dreamed of a sulphurous enemy crushing their perfectly restored residences beneath his smoking heel, nocturnal browns-and-blacks found themselves cheering, in their sleep, this what-else-after-all-but-black-man, maybe a little twisted up by fate class race history, all that, but getting off his behind, bad and mad, to kick a little ass.”
→ Narrator, Page 295
This quote discusses how immigrants rally behind the goatman as a symbol of their persecution. In the London plot, Rushdie explores the immigrant experience in detail. According to the novel, one of the most poignant and problematic aspects of life as an immigrant is dealing with the frustration of being insulted and excluded by white society. The immigrant characters are justifiably angry at the way they are treated by both authorities and the general population. However, they also want to uphold the Indian tradition of peaceful protest, to avoid playing into the stereotype of violent Eastern people. Younger immigrants find a solution to this complicated problem by embracing Satan, the biggest outsider in Western culture, as a symbol of their plight.
- “Information got abolished sometime in the twentieth century, can’t say just when; stands to reason, that’s part of the information that got abolish, abolished. Since then we’ve been living in a fairy-story. Got me? Everything happens by magic. Us fairies haven’t a fucking notion what’s going on. So how do we know if it’s right or wrong? We don’t even know what it is.”
→ Alleluia Cone, Page 323
Alleluia’s drunken explanation of the modern human condition has several possible interpretations. It can be read as a criticism of the ‘information overload’ that occurred as mass media became more prominent in the second half of the twentieth century. As scholars like Christopher Butler have written, the concept of information overload is an important theme in the work of postmodern authors like Rushdie. The abolition of information, then, does not mean that there is no information; on the contrary, it means that there is so much information that people cannot process it all. Certainly, one can see in Rushdie's style how he is intrigued by the concept of overload. The passage can also be read as a justification of the novel’s magical realist aesthetic. Rushdie’s fabulism, the passage suggests, is a metaphor for the moral confusion that people experience in response to the late twentieth century’s violence and ethical relativism.
- “Whores and writers, Mahound. We are the people you can’t forgive.”
→ Baal, Page 405
Baal’s comment to Mahound offers specific insight into the Jahilia plotline, as well as into theocracies more generally. The theocratic Muslim regimes that Rushdie criticize treat women and dissident writers especially harshly, so Baal’s words resonate with modern politics. However, the comment also refers to Mahound’s biggest flaw – his pride. Mahound is able to forgive Salman and Abu Simbel relatively easily when he comes to power in Jahilia. However, he cannot forget the humiliating verses Baal wrote about him twenty-five years before. The artist has a unique power because he can affect people without them realizing it. The whores also hurt Mahound’s pride by adopting the personalities of Mahound’s wives to please their clients. Because they are malleable, willing to take on different identities, they pose an implicit challenge to the rigidity of Mahound's ideology. By pointing out these two vendettas, Baal reveals Mahound’s narcissism, and suggests the danger of fixed ideas.
- “ – Or are there deeper resentments here, gripes for which this so-called Primary Cause is, in truth, no more than a substitute, a front? – For are they not conjoined opposites, these two, each man the other’s shadow? – One seeking to be transformed into the foreignness he admires, the other preferring, contemptuously, to transform; one, a hapless fellow who seems to be continually punished for uncommitted crimes, the other, called angelic by one and all, the type of man who gets away with everything.”
→ Narrator, Page 441
One of the central contradictions in The Satanic Verses is the fact that although Gibreel and Saladin transform into an angel and a demon, their moral status remains ambiguous. Saladin is continually victimized by everyone from the Police to his unfaithful wife, Pamela – a quality not traditionally associated with Satan. Likewise, Gibreel is portrayed as loutish and inconsiderate, and his transformation into an angel only makes him even more narcissistic. Although the men are opposites on the surface, their transformations also bring them closer together. Thematically, the sense is that they both have the potential for angelic and satanic behavior, even when they take the explicit form of one or the other. This passage brings this contradiction to the surface, and makes explicit the transformation’s double meaning.
- “In this century history stopped paying attention to the old psychological orientation of reality. I mean, these days, character isn’t destiny any more. Economics is destiny. Ideology is destiny. Bombs are destiny. What does a famine, a gas chamber, a grenade care how you lived your life? Crisis comes, death comes, and your pathetic individual self doesn’t have a thing to do with it, only to suffer the effects.”
→ Alicja Cone, Page 447
Alleluia’s mother Alicja is a tertiary character, but her experiences during World War Two give her a unique perspective on modern politics. She suggests that the atrocities of the first half of the century have irrevocably altered the psychological and moral aspects of the human condition. This helps explain why politics, which might have seemed abstract to members of Alicja’s generation, have such an impact on characters like the Sufyans and Zeeny Vakil. It also helps explain Saladin’s transformation into a devil. Rushdie eventually makes it clear that the Goatman is a symbol of the outsider status that South Asian immigrants experience in London. By transforming into Western culture’s most feared outsider, Saladin is “suffer[ing] the effects” of his people’s oppression in the most literal way possible. The entire novel presupposes a synthesis of politics, history, culture, and personality, and Alicja here suggests that this is all the more true in the new century.
- The Satanic Verses The Satanic Verses and Immigration
- There has been much research about the role of Islam in The Satanic Verses. However, religion is not the only hot-button issue that this novel explores. It also addresses the politics and mechanics of immigration from East to West – specifically, from India to the United Kingdom. To fully understand the role that immigration plays in the novel, it is necessary to know the political context in which The Satanic Verses was written.
- When Rushdie published The Satanic Verses in 1988, the United Kingdom's political climate was more conservative than it had been in decades (or would be for years afterwards). In 1979, the Conservative Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister, and with the help of a like-minded Parliament, she designed many conservative policies that would eventually take full effect.
- Immigration was an especially important issue to Thatcher; in a 1978 television interview, she claimed that British "people are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture." (This despite the fact that Great Britain was over 90% white until 2001.) In 1981, the British government tightened control over immigration by passing the British Nationality Act, which stipulated that only citizens of the UK were guaranteed the right to live there. No longer could citizens of Britain's dependent countries and former colonies take citizenship for granted, as have previously been the case. Immigration subsequently dropped, and the UK also accepted fewer Asian refugees during this period than it had before Thatcher's tenure in office.
- Hostility towards immigrants was not limited to official policy. Thatcher's comments about the country being "swamped" with newcomers may have been controversial, but they did reflect the views of some white English people. According to a recent study by the University of Exeter, racially-motivated hate crimes increased during this period, as did support for the far-right National Front party. This helps explain why the immigrants in The Satanic Verses' London plot feel persecuted not only by the police but also by white Londoners in general.
In-Page Footnotes ("Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Introduction")
Footnote 1: See Gradesaver.com - The Satanic Verses.
"Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections I - III"
Source: Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide1: Chapters I - III
- "The Angel Gibreel"
- "Ellowen Deeowen"
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part I - "The Angel Gibreel"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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"
- 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.
- 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"
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 ("Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections I - III")
Footnote 1: See Gradesaver.com - The Satanic Verses.
"Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections IV - VI"
Source: Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide1: Chapters IV - VI
- "A City Visible but Unseen"
- "Return to Jahilia"
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part IV - "Ayesha"
- This section returns to Gibreel’s dreams. Most of Parts IV and VIII are set in Titlipur, a rural village that shares the mythic quality of Jahilia, but exists in modern times.
- However, the beginning of this vision is set in London. In it, we meet the Imam, a conservative Muslim leader living in exile in London. He has fled both his homeland of Desh and his archenemy, the empress Ayesha. From London, he and his aides broadcast anti-Ayesha propaganda to Desh using a ham radio. Bilal X, an African-American convert to Islam, is the Imam’s most faithful disciple; he is in charge of reading the broadcasts.
- Once again, Gibreel finds himself not only an observer but also a character in his vision, playing the part of the angel Gibreel. The Imam asks Gibreel to help him reclaim Desh, but Gibreel is reluctant. The Imam rushes Gibreel and forces him to fly to Iran, to help the Imam overthrow Ayesha. Gibreel tries to explain that the people revolt against Ayesha because they hate her, and not because they love the Imam. The Imam ignores Gibreel and murders Ayesha. However, the spirit of the goddess Al-lat reanimates her body.
- The Imam orders Gibreel to fight Al-lat, and he reluctantly complies. After a fierce battle with lightning spears, Gibreel kills Al-lat. The Imam becomes the absolute ruler of Desh and stops all of the country’s clocks.
- Gibreel has a second, seemingly unrelated dream. This one is set in the peaceful village of Titlipur, which is famous for its beautiful swarms of butterflies. A landowner, Mirza Saeed Akhtar, lives in a luxurious house with his beloved wife, Mishal. Though they love each other, they have been unsuccessful in conceiving a child, something Mishal believes is a reflexion of their muted sexual passions.
- One day, Mirza sees an peasant girl eating butterflies in his backyard, and he is overcome with lust for her. The girl has a epileptic seizure, so Mirza Saeed brings her inside. Mishal recognizes her as an orphan who sells animal figurines on the side of the road. Her name is also Ayesha, although there is no obvious connection between her and the empress from Gibreel’s first dream.
- The Akhtars adopt Ayesha, who grows into a beautiful woman. However, no one wants to marry her because of both her epilepsy and her distracted demeanor, which makes people worry she is insane. She supports herself by making small figurines that promote chastity and family values. The toy merchant, Sri Srinivas, buys them as much to support her as to make a profit.
- One man, a clown named Osman, falls in love with her despite her apparent insanity. He is a former untouchable who converted to Islam, largely to escape the restrictions of his caste. Ayesha spurns him, but nevertheless uses his likeness to make some new figurines, which she cannot sell because of Osman’s reputation for religious insincerity. On her way back from trying to sell the figurines to Sri Srinivas, Ayesha’s hair turns white and her dress turns into butterflies. When she returns to the village, she claims that she has lain with the archangel Gibreel, which breaks Osman’s heart. Gibreel is shocked to hear this, since he does not remember such an incident. Ayesha returns to Mirza's house, and grows extremely close to Mishal.
- Meanwhile, Mirza Saeed stresses about his attraction to Ayesha. He encourages Mishal to take the veil and confine herself to the house, which is a dramatic departure from their progressive habits. He cannot determine whether this request is motivated by love for her or lust for Ayesha, whom he might secretly want to seduce in his wife's absence. Meanwhile, Mrs. Qureishi, Mishal's mother, has moved in with them and insists that Mirza release his wife from these demands. Because Mishal thinks it is some kind of erotic game, she plays along, but the religious devotion only brings her closer to Ayesha.
- One day, Ayesha proclaims that the angel Gibreel has revealed that Mishal has severe breast cancer. Mirza Saeed accuses her of lying, and beats her. However, a terrified Mishal sees a doctor, who confirms Ayesha’s prophecy. Mirza Saeed believes God is punishing him for lusting after Ayesha by afflicting his wife with cancer.
- Ayesha disappears for seven days. When she returns, she calls a village council, and tells the leaders that the archangel Gibreel has spoken to her again. This time, he has commanded that the entire village walk to Mecca. (The route crosses the Arabian sea, which the angel has promised will part for them.) If they do this, Mishal’s cancer will be healed. The village agrees to go. As Mishal and Mrs. Qureishi prepare to leave with the others, Mirza Saeed tries to talk them out of it, insisting that religion is nothing but superstition and that the journey will surely kill Mishal.
- Gibreel’s two dreams in Part IV are dramatically different from one another, although there are some points of overlap. The first dream, about the Imam, is best understood as a political allegory. Some scholars, including Paul Brians, have noted the Imam’s resemblance to Ayatollah Khomeini, who would later issue a fatwa against Rushdie after The Satanic Verses was published. Brians notes the parallels between this story and the Iranian revolution; the Imam believes he can solve his country’s spiritual decline by literally stopping the clocks, a reference to the Ayatollah’s strict conservatism. (Rushdie himself has affirmed this interpretation of the section.)
- The Imam’s ability to bend Gibreel to his will is a damning commentary on how theocratic regimes (like Iran’s) corrupt religion to suit their own purposes. This section also adds a dimension of complexity to the satanic verses story of Part II. When Gibreel is forced to fight Al-lat, he is uncomfortable using violence, yet the narrator describes her death in graphic, horrific detail. Although we never learn much about Al-lat as a character, the passage can be read as a condemnation of the way some ideologues try to eradicate those who are different from them. Interestingly, though, Mahound's non violent attempts to embrace Al-lat in the 'satanic verses' episode would necessarily have meant a compromise of his ideals. The contradiction seems to be that the only way to begin something new is to destroy what came before, even if that involves unpleasant violence. This theme will resonate with later sections of the novel.
- The second dream is very different in tone from the first. While the Imam plot keeps extraneous details to a minimum, the narrator uses a more realistic mode for the Titlipur storyline. We get a full portrait of the village, including a description of the mythology surrounding its central banyan tree, and characterizations of minor figures such as Sri Srinivas and Osman. It is also more overtly literary than the first dream. For example, Osman functions like the fool in classical drama; in this trope, the fool is a social outcast but nevertheless makes profound insights about the people around him. Rushdie seems to acknowledge this parallel by giving Osman a job as a clown.
- It is also worth investigating the use of anachronism in the Titlipur plot. At first, the superstitious, ignorant villagers seem drawn from ancient times – at the beginning of the dream, they believe epilepsy is the same thing as insanity, and that it is contagious. However, Titlipur melds traditional village culture with moments of modernity; for example, the Akhtars watch soft porn on a VCR, and Mishal accuses her secular husband of trying to emulate the English, which dates the story to the twentieth century. These anachronisms are part of Rushdie’s signature style. He appropriates pieces of different traditions and blends them together to create something entirely unique. However, it is also an accurate reflection of Indian life in 1989 (and to a lesser extent, today); pockets of traditional culture exist alongside fully modern cities, and these forces compete to fashion an Indian identity. Indeed, this conflict also resonates in the Titlipur story, in terms of attitudes towards women. Questions of a woman's sexuality, the veil, and her trustworthiness all appear in this section. Rushdie does not declare a traditional or modern approach to women as superior, but instead explores the complexity of the conflict.
- The most obvious point of overlap between the two dreams is that they feature charismatic women who commune with the supernatural – and both of these women are named Ayesha. However, there are also thematic similarities. Both dreams address the problems that arise when a person tries to speak for God. The Imam and Ayesha both invoke Gibreel, but he is always bewildered when they call in his name. This harkens back to Part II, and continues to suggest that communion with a god is often more about the human's desire than the deity's desire. Of course, there are differences in the way each character invokes Gibreel. The narrator muses: “With Mahound, there is always a struggle; with the Imam, slavery; but with this girl, there is nothing. Gibreel is inert, usually asleep in the dream as he is in life” (240-241). No character has a truly harmonious relationship with God –indeed, in the world of the novel, such a thing might be impossible. What someone wants from God will determine how God speaks to him or her.
- Finally, it is also useful to understand the hajj, one of the pillars of Islam. According to the faith, any person who is financially and physically able should make at least one pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca (represted as Jahilia in the Mahound plotline) in his or her life. The villagers of Titlipur would be exempt from the expectation, either because of their poverty or because of their infirmity. The fact that Ayesha offers them a chance to fulfill the expectation despite these limitations gives her a miraculous air; she is promising greater service to Allah than they otherwise thought themselves capable of. Mirza Saeed tries to convince Mishal to simply fly to the city if she wants to go, but she is as attracted to the miraculous impossibility of the trip as she is to the hajj itself.
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part V - "A City Visible but Unseen"
- Chapter 1
- The story returns to contemporary London.
- Jumpy Joshi, guilty over his adultery, wants to take care of Saladin. He gives Saladin a coat to cover his horns, and brings him to the nearby Shaandaar Cafe, a restaurant and hotel, for help. There, he asks the proprietor, Muhammad Sufyan, to house Saladin, who is becoming more panicked about his transformation. The Sufyan family agrees to help by housing him in their attic room.
- The narrator gives some background about the Sufyan matriarch, Hind Sufyan (not to be confused with Hind, Abu Simbel’s wife in the Jahilia plot). She sees her husband Muhammad as an effeminate weakling. She also resents the fact that they had to move to London because of Muhammad’s involvement with the Bengali Communist party. She is especially resentful that she has to manage the business, attracting customers with her excellent cooking, while he remains ineffectual.
- The Sufyans do their best to help Saladin – indeed, the two teenage daughters, Anahita and Mishal Sufyan, are delighted by his transformation. However, Saladin remains silently frustrated to be helpless before people who are ‘not British.’ He has nightmares about Hyacinth Phillips, and about his wife’s affair with Jumpy. The next morning, he calls his old colleague, Mimi Mamoulian, and is dismayed to hear both that he’s been replaced at his television job on the alien show, and that Mimi is dating Billy Battuta, a notorious playboy and scam artist. Saladin calls his producer, Hal Valance, who confirms that he has indeed been dropped from the show – because, he says, audiences prefer white actors.
- Hind loves to read imported magazines about Bollywood, and she one day she reads an article that reports Gibreel Farishta is returning to the screen. When she mentions it to Saladin, he becomes enraged – he still resents how Gibreel refused to help him when he was arrested. Oddly, his rage shrinks his horns and his penis; soon afterwards, the transformation recommences and he resumes his goat shape. In fact, his horns, tail and body continue to grow.
- Within a few weeks, Gibreel’s film deal falls through because the film's producer, Billy Battuta, is arrested for fraud along with Mimi. Meanwhile, Mishal Sufyan starts an affair with Hanif Johnson, a well-to-do lawyer who lives at the Shaandaar Cafe, while Saladin’s wife Pamela leads a public investigation into allegations of witchcraft being practiced by police officers. Pamela also becomes pregnant, with Jumpy Joshi's child. She refuses to believe that her husband is still alive, and to accept that the goat is in fact him.
- Jumpy and the Sufyans all keep silent about Saladin’s transformation. Nevertheless, people all over London begin having dreams of a goatlike devil wreaking havoc. The image of “the Goatman” begins to appear everywhere, from commercials to political protests, and young people of color begin to embrace it as a symbol of rebellion (295). This movement, along with a gruesome serial killer known only as the Granny Ripper, gives the police a pretext to harass the immigrant community.
- Things come to a head when Hind finds out about Mishal Sufyan’s affair with Hanif the lawyer. She is enraged; at the same time, she and Muhammad are fighting because he has found out she regularly overcharges their customers at the café. In the middle of the massive argument that ensues, Saladin storms out of his room, now eight feet tall, naked, and breathing sulphuric smoke. The Sufyans realize they can no longer host Saladin in his current form, so Mishal contacts her friend Pinkwalla, who works as a nightclub deejay. Pinkwalla arranges for Saladin to sleep in the basement of the Hot Wax club, a popular South Asian hang-out owned by John Maslama. That night, Saladin is once again consumed with fury at Gibreel for betraying him. This rage transforms back into a human, although the change is very painful.
- Chapter 2
- We learn a bit about Alleluia Cone’s youth. Her father (Otto Cone) survived a concentration camp in World War II, so he eschewed his native Poland and threw himself into becoming English. Her older sister Elena was a supermodel who eventually died of a drug overdose. Although the girls tried to maintain a relationship, they had little in common, and they grew apart after Allie lost her virginity and Elena reacted angrily to the news.
- We also learn that Alleluia is not entirely well. When scaling Everest along with a helper, she decided to climb the highest peak without her oxygen mask. Perhaps because of the ensuing brain damage, she has begun to see the ghost of Maurice Wilson, the yogi who died in a solo ascent, throughout London. The spectre tempts her to try her own solo ascent, while also implicitly promising she will die in the attempt. She does not confess these sightings to anyone.
- Gibreel’s plotline picks up where it left off – he has collapsed on Alleluia’s doorstep. He moves in with her. Their sex life is fantastic, but the arrangement has its tensions: Gibreel is a slob, he speaks rudely to Alleluia’s friends, and he is prone to fits of jealous rage. Alleluia, for her part, is skittish about love and worries that the relationship is moving too fast. Her concerns are exacerbated by her mother, Alicja Cone, who is quite vocal about her dislike for the relationship.
- The biggest problem, though, is Gibreel’s belief that he is the Angel of the Recitation (the most important archangel in the Muslim canon, who delivered God’s word to Muhammad). One night, an angel visits Gibreel and tells him to leave Alleluia so he can spread the word of God through London. He complies, and leaves after a fight. Alleluia is distraught.
- Gibreel wanders the city trying to save people, but they all think him insane. Rekha Merchant’s ghost appears to him, mocking his ineffectiveness; she also warns him that Alleluia is secretly trying to get pregnant. One day, Gibreel meets Orphia Phillips (Hyacinth’s sister, although Gibreel does not realize the connection to Saladin). Although she is skeptical of Gibreel’s claims, she confides in him about her co-worker and lover, Uriah Moseley, who abandoned her for another woman. Gibreel puts his hands on Orphia and heals her, and they together confront Uriah. However, Uriah has proposed to his new girlfriend, Rochelle Watkins, and Orphia gets in trouble when her boss sees her with Gibreel. She angrily reprimands him for his interference.
- Rekha appears to Gibreel again, and offers to return his sanity if he admits he loves her. Gibreel declines because he still feels beholden to his mission. However, he grows progressively more frustrated when no one listens to him; finally, he fantasizes that he has grown to gargantuan proportions, and he steps onto the cars.
- Of course, he has not grown, and he is hit by the car of S.S. Sisodia, an Indian film producer. Sisodia recognizes Gibreel, and he and Alleluia bring the actor to a psychiatric hospital, where he is treated for schizophrenia. Soon, Sisodia arranges for Gibreel to star in a trilogy of religious films in which he will play the archangel Gibreel. Alleluia objects that the association will be detrimental to Gibreel's mental health, but Gibreel accepts the job anyway.
- To promote the films, Gibreel agrees to headline a dance show in London, although his identity is kept secret – he is a surprise ‘Dark Star.’ He dresses as an angel and is lowered onto the stage, but when the fans rush the stage, he levitates into the air and disappears. He enjoys flying over London, and ponders the city’s best and worst qualities. Suddenly, he has a vision of Saladin Chamcha as a demon, and passes out. When he wakes, he is again on Alleluia’s doorstep.
- In this section, Rushdie makes many of the novel’s political themes explicit. Although the previous chapters have addressed the immigrant experience in some detail, “A City Visible but Unseen” highlights the frustration and rage that many immigrant youths feel in a society that excludes them. When Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses in 1989, the United Kingdom had long been relatively liberal in its treatment of minorities. However, the influx of immigrants from India and Africa was still a relatively new phenomenon, and this was causing tensions with natives. This tension was most apparent in London, which is and was a hub for new immigrants. Although these new British citizens had the same rights and privileges as natives, many felt excluded from English culture. In the novel, these tensions come to a head when the image of Saladin as a goat-man becomes a symbol of immigrant frustration.
- Although Saladin himself eschews his Indian identity, his experiences illustrate some of the prejudices that ‘brown people’ experienced as newcomers in England. Although he is a British citizen and has lived there since he was thirteen, the police officers do not believe he is a citizen, and beat him mercilessly. Although the police officers treat Gibreel a bit better, he also experiences racism when he encounters a pamphleteer distributing anti-immigrant materials. On a slightly more benign note, Part V also shows evidence of cultural segregation; the Sufyans seem to associate exclusively with other South Asian immigrants, and Alleluia’s mother makes several racist comments about her daughter’s relationship with Gibreel.
- Further, Rushdie begins to sow seeds of the violence that cultural unrest can engender. When the minorities take the goat-man symbol to support their cause, the police begin to prepare for impending violence, ironically using their own violence to suppress it. Likewise, the mystery of the Granny Killer exacerbates racial tensions, as do Pamela's accusations of witchcraft amongst the police. While Rushdie keeps his amused tone throughout, the grounded reality of racial and cultural unrest does make its way into this section.
- Cultural and economic exploitation also become important concepts in Part V. On page 270, Mimi acknowledges that her new boyfriend Billy Battuta is exploiting her, valuing her primarily because she is white. However, Mimi views this kind of exploitation as a fact of life, to be acknowledged and accepted. Her worldview is very different from Saladin’s; he rarely thinks critically about the relationship between cultures, and when he does, he makes a point of denigrating Indian culture as much as possible. What both have in common is that they define themselves in a binary fashion - either by what they are or are not, rather than considering their identity as singular, full of particular contradictions and qualities.
- The issue of cultural exploitation is most prominent in Chapter 1; in Chapter 2, we witness economic exploitation when Gibreel’s producer, S.S. Sisodia, urges him to return to work despite his fragile mental condition. Sisodia even capitalizes on Gibreel’s delusion by casting him as the angel Gibreel in a new film trilogy. Naturally, cultural and economic exploitation go hand in hand, particularly in the historical relationship between Great Britain and India. Although Gibreel’s exploitation at the hands of Sisodia has little apparent connection to geopolitics, it does demonstrate the problems that arise when a people try to capitalize on their identities – whether it’s Mimi using her whiteness to attract Billy, or Gibreel using his mental illness to boost his film profits. Gibreel, as we see, is actually an extremely complicated personality, whose masks as actor bleed into his own cultural and economic particulars. However, he is forced to cement an identity by commoditizing it into a film role. He is letting his rather fantastical personality become binary. While religious themes continue to resonate here - through both Saladin and Gibreel's transformations - they become subsumed to the cultural and political themes. Saladin's hatred of Gibreel cedes his religious transformation, while Gibreel happily trades his angelic personality for a prospective return to secular stardom.
- It is also worth mentioning this section’s postmodern self-reflexivity – another one of Rushdie’s stylistic hallmarks. The narrator frequently makes reference to himself, as both the creator of the story and a character in it. Likewise, Mimi’s description of Western culture as a ‘culture of pastiche’ can describe The Satanic Verses itself, with its frequent references to Indian and Western pop culture and its appropriation of Islamic history.
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part VI - "Return to Jahilia"
- Part VI resumes the Jahilia plotline twenty-five years after the end of Part II.
After two and a half decades in the more tolerant city of Yathrib, Mahound is set to return to his native city. Jahilia has suffered an economic decline over the years, and many of the characters from Part II, including Baal the poet and Abu Simbel, are in ill health. Hind, however, has strangely not aged at all. She remains as ruthless and sexually voracious as ever, and she rules Jahilia with an iron fist. The narrator pays special attention to Baal, who can no longer construct decent poems or attract women.
- One night, Salman – one of Mahound’s disciples – visits Baal to warn him that Mahound is returning. For a long time, Salman was a great supporter of Mahound, and even invented a spike pit that helped Yathrib defend itself against an army that followed them from Jahilia. However, Salman has now rebelled against Mahound because, under Mahound’s doctrine of Submission, “no aspect of human existence was to be left unregulated, free” (376). (Submission describes the act of self-denial before Allah). Salman began to doubt Submission when he noticed that the content of Mahound’s revelations always seemed to benefit Mahound and no one else. To test his doubts, Salman – who worked as a scribe for Mahound – started making changes to the revelations that Mahound dictated to him for the sacred script. Mahound never noticed the changes, which confirmed Salman's belief that Mahound was not in fact delivering the words of Allah. His faith destroyed, and worried that Mahound would eventually discover his subterfuge, Salman fled to Jahilia, believing it the one place where Submission would never take hold. Of course, with Mahound's impending return, this no longer seems likely.
- Unexpectedly, Abu Simbel accepts Submission, and addresses the people of Jahilia from his balcony, encouraging them to do the same. Hind is horrified by this, mainly because of her longstanding feud with Mahound; she had killed his uncle Hamza and other followers after the events of Part II. She pleads with the crowd to ignore her husband, but they take Abu Simbel’s side. Meanwhile, Mahound’s disciple Khalid enters the city and destroys the statue of Uzza, one of Jahilia's patron goddesses. When Uzza actually appears as a devilish woman, he kills her, and then reports back to Mahound.
- Mahound next destroys Jahilia’s main polytheistic shrine, the House of Black Stone. Most of the citizens then convert, including Hind, whom Mahound forgives for murdering his uncle. Mahound’s men find Salman, who begs for his life despite having betrayed the faith. Mahound seems posed to order his execution, but Salman promises to bring Mahound to Baal, and the prophet agrees. Mahound had never recovered from the shame of the vicious poetry Baal wrote about him and his faith, as detailed in Part II.
- Fearing for his life, Baal hides in a notoriously labyrinthine brothel, so intricate that he easily hides from Mahound's disciples when they search there for him. He disguises himself as a eunuch member of the staff, and from that vantage overhears men talking of outside events while they visit the prostitutes over the next months. He learns that most Jahilians have converted, though few of them are serious about Submission. Though prostitution is not sanctioned by Submission, Mahound has allowed some brothels to remain open temporarily. There is a thriving black market for pork and alcohol (both outlawed by Submission), and some people still secretly pray to the old goddesses. Gradually, Baal becomes disenchanted with both Submission and the old polytheism, and he becomes an atheist. However, he remains irritated by Mahound’s ceaseless search for power, so he develops a plan to undermine Submission.
- Baal thinks of one patron, Musa, who gossips about Mahound’s large harem. Baal suggests to the prostitutes that the next one to entertain Musa should pretend to be one of Mahound’s wives. The youngest prostitute agrees, and Musa is delighted. Soon, all of the prostitutes pretend to be a wife of Mahound, the brothel's business triples, and Baal is pleased that all of Jahilia is complicit in this heresy. The women gradually begin to take on the personality traits of Mahound's wives in their everyday lives, and they insist on collectively ‘marrying’ Baal, who is the only male staff member who is not a eunuch.
- One day, Salman visits the brothel and recognizes Baal. He explains that he is leaving town; Mahound’s theocracy has become too miserable to bear. Shortly afterwards, Mahound announces that all brothels must be closed and their owners arrested. However, the madam kills herself before she can be incarcerated, so the police officers arrest the prostitutes instead. When they beg him to intercede, he cowardly flees, and later regrets it. He begins to serenade them with beautiful poetry at the window of their jail cell every night, and eventually allows himself to be put on trial, where he explains to the public the gimmick he engineered. He is beheaded, and the prostitutes are stoned.
- The narrator reveals that Hind never truly converted to Submission; she just sequestered herself and lived out her life unhappily. Not long after Baal’s execution, Mahound falls ill and readies himself for death. He has a vision of Al-Lat, who tells him that his illness is her revenge. “Still,” he says, “I thank thee, Al-Lat, for this gift” (406). Those are his last words.
- As the Jahilia plotline concludes, Rushdie introduces a direct and pointed critique of Islam – and by default, of religion in general. He accomplishes this through the figure of Salman, who shares several characteristics with the author, and thus serves as a kind of stand-in for him. Salman shares a first name with Rushdie; in addition, his Persian ethnicity makes him an outsider among the followers of Submission.
- This may be a reflection of Rushdie’s own life experience. Although he writes about India, Islam, and Eastern culture, he was educated in England and has spent most of his adult life in the West – thus, some might argue that his perspective is that of a foreigner, one who does not entirely belong to any one culture. Finally, Salman’s position as a scribe, and his invention of the spike pit, show that he is more intellectually inclined than his peers, and that he has a creative personality – both qualities that Rushdie might well identify with.
- Initially, the Jahilia plotline encouraged the reader to sympathize with Mahound, who wrestles with doubt and uncertainty, and must confront persecution from Abu Simbel and the authorities. However, as Submission begins to flourish, Mahound is corrupted by power and takes advantage of his position to tightly control his followers’ lives. He no longer allows any room for doubt, but instead insists on certainty to cement his authority. By the end of Part VI, Jahilia has no clear moral center. Mahound and his followers are corrupt; Hind has sequestered herself; Salman has fled.
- Baal is arguably Part VI's protagonist, but even his actions are rife with moral ambiguity. In Part II, he wrote verses attacking Mahound not out of principle, but to avoid being beaten by Abu Simbel. Here, he antagonizes Mahound from his hideout in the brothel, but makes no real attempt to overthrow the regime. Ultimately, Baal is too silly and cowardly to be considered a hero, and Submission is just one more malevolent force in a universe of moral bankruptcy. In this way, Rushdie implicitly questions what authority an artist can have in the face of true power and corruption. Baal uses his imaginative ingenuity to sow seeds of heresy and discord, but those attempts falter before the permanence of execution. The artist certainly has power - in fact, Baal seems to be the man Mahound hates most from his earlier life - but that power only resonates when it is supported by the men who control the force.
- This narrative can be understood as a revisionist interpretation of Islamic history, but there are also parallels to more recent events. For example, the corruption of Submission could also be considered as an allegory for the Iranian revolution, which Rushdie satirized in Part IV. Like Submission, Iran’s theocracy first gained power as a populist movement, and it enjoyed support from many left-wing intellectuals. However, its leaders gradually exerted close control over the lives of its people. Indeed, Jahilia’s black market for pork and prostitutes evokes a modern theocratic regime more than any incident in ancient history. On the other hand, it is arguable that Rusdie is using this allegory to make a more universal statement about the way power corrupts ideals, and no revolution can remain pure, precisely because every person has both angelic and satanic potential. What begins as a pure intention is easily corrupted by our less noble qualities. In this way, this narrative parallels that of Gibreel and Saladin.
In-Page Footnotes ("Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections IV - VI")
Footnote 1: See Gradesaver.com - The Satanic Verses.
"Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections VII - IX"
Source: Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide
The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide1: Chapters I - III
- "The Angel Azraeel"
- "The Parting of the Arabian Sea"
- "A Wonderful Lamp"
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part VII - "The Angel Azraeel"
- Chapter 1
- The narrative shifts back to contemporary London.
- Saladin, now transformed back to a human, reflects on his relationship with his wife Pamela, and how it has been affected by bigotry. He dreams of having a son, and teaching him to ride a bicycle. The following morning, he decides to resume his life as best he can, so he moves back in with Pamela until they can arrange for a divorce. Her pregnancy from Jumpy Joshi is starting to show, but she is not handling it well – she abuses whiskey, and shaves her head when her hair starts to go gray. Although they live together, they barely speak. Saladin grows depressed and has trouble finding work. Jumpy does his best to reconcile the couple, to little avail.
- One day, Jumpy invites Saladin to a political meeting, where activists are campaigning for Dr. Uhuru Simba, a prominent black activist who has been arrested for the gruesome Granny Ripper murders. Many in the immigrant community believe he was framed because of his race and political beliefs. Hanif Johnson is acting as Dr. Uhuru’s lawyer, and both Saladin and Jumpy are secretly attending the meeting in hopes of glimpsing Mishal Sufyan. They are both infatuated with her; Jumpy is her karate instructor.
- At the meeting, several people give inspiring speeches. When Saladin glances over at Mishal, he has a vision that her forehead is bursting into flames, while the angel Azraeel comes down from heaven to smite him. Saladin interprets the image as a warning against pursuing Mishal. He also hears that Alleluia Cone was supposed to be at the meeting, but did not show up. Between the vision and Alleluia’s association with Gibreel, Saladin realizes that his life has changed, and that he cannot simply recreate the life he had before the accident.
- Chapter 2
- Billy Battuta manages to avoid being jailed for fraud, so long as leaves the United States and returns to London. He and Mimi return together, and throw a party at a soundstage that was most recently used to film a musical adaptation of the Dickens novel Our Mutual Friend. The soundstage remains decorated for that purpose, and several people wear costumes to accentuate it.
- Most of the novel's main characters (from the London plot) attend the party, and when Saladin sees Gibreel, he is overcome with rage. He approaches Gibreel, intending to kill him. Gibreel, sedated by powerful antipsychotics, is oblivious to Saladin’s intentions, and asks after Pamela. Saladin ruefully confides that Pamela is pregnant by Jumpy Joshi, which reminds Gibreel of his suspicions that Alleluia is secretly trying to get pregnant. Gibreel convinces himself that Alleluia is having an affair with Jumpy, and excuses himself to confront that man. Unseen by anyone, he knocks Jumpy unconscious, and throws him into the film set’s fake river.
- A few days later, Gibreel and Alleluia retreat to the countryside to aid the former's recovery. Gibreel invites Saladin to visit them, and Saladin accepts, still planning to murder Gibreel. However, he cannot bring himself to commit the act in front of Alleluia. They spend several days in the country, and Gibreel confides many secrets in his fellow survivor.
- A few weeks later, Gibreel meets Saladin in London, and the two men take a long walk. Although the film star is more functional than before, he still behaves manically, and he irritates Saladin by graphically describing his sexual encounters with Alleluia. However, the stories also titillate Saladin, and he finds himself thinking sexually of Alleluia.
- Knowing he will not murder Gibreel, Saladin concocts a different revenge plan. He begins to prank-call Gibreel and Alleluia. Using his voice-acting talents, he pretends to be many different callers, each of whom has an impressive knowledge of Alleluia’s anatomy – which Saladin learned about from Gibreel’s explicit stories. Saladin intends to drive Gibreel mad with jealousy, while simultaneously growing closer to Alleluia. It works - after three weeks, Gibreel runs away while Alleluia is at a photo shoot. During that time, Saladin had been spending time with Allie, acting as her confidante.
- Meanwhile, John Maslama – the businessman Gibreel met on the train to London, and the first man to recognize him as an angel – has not forgotten about Gibreel. In fact, he has been taking out anonymous advertisements, claiming that God’s messenger has come to earth. One day, Gibreel enters Maslama's Hot Wax record store (associated with his night club) and buys a trumpet, which he then names Azraeel – Gibreel’s lieutenant. Maslama’s employees see a halo appear around Gibreel's head before he leaves.
- Chapter 3
- Dr. Uhuru Simba dies in prison. The police claim that he broke his neck after having a nightmare and rolling out of bed, but many people believe the story a lie. Protests and riots break out, and intensify when the Granny Ripper murders continue, suggesting that Simba was innocent the whole time. Simba’s mother and brother meet with Pamela, to give her some evidence that Simba’s police captors participated in witchcraft – the conspiracy theory that Pamela has campaigned for.
- That night, a group of young Sikh men catch the Granny Ripper in action, and turn him in to the police. Rumors of an impending cover-up circulate, and a massive riot breaks out in the Brickhall neighborhood. Meanwhile, the police raid the Hot Wax nightclub – the same club where Pinkwalla hosted Saladin on his last night as a demon. John Maslama, Pinkwalla, and Anahita Sufyan are arrested for being part of a narcotics ring. The raid on the city’s most popular South Asian hangout further infuriates the rioters.
- During the riots, Gibreel dazedly wanders the streets of London. He ends up in a gritty neighborhood, where he rescues twelve prostitutes – who resemble Mahound’s twelve wives – from their pimp by blowing flames from his trumpet. He sets off to find and kill Saladin, whom he now calls “the adversary” (478). He has realized it was Saladin who made the phone calls. He goes to the Shaandaar Café, which seems to be burning when he arrives, and spots Saladin in the window of the building.
- The next day, the police investigate two fires. One was at the Shaandaar Café, and killed Muhammed and Hind Sufyan. The second was at the Brickhall community relations center, and killed Jumpy Joshi and Pamela. This fire is believed to be arson.
- The narrative flashes back to the previous night, this time told from Saladin’s perspective. Saladin saw the helicopters and riot police, and irrationally thought they were coming for him. He fled to the Shaandaar Café, and when he saw it burning, he rushed in to rescue the Sufyans. Before he could find them, a burning beam pinned him to the ground. At this point, Gibreel pursued him inside, but rescued Saladin instead of killing him. After he brings Saladin outside, Gibreel collapses from exhaustion; he has not slept in days. Part VII ends as the survivors of the fire – Gibreel, Saladin, Mishal Sufyan, and Hanif Johnson – are transported to the hospital.
- In Part VII, arguably the climax of this loosely plotted novel, thematic symmetry becomes very important. Gibreel and Saladin spend much of this section hunting each other, and they only succeed when each rushes into the burning Shaandaar Café. Ironically, Saladin’s intentions when he enters the burning building are angelic – he wants to rescue the Sufyans. Gibreel’s, on the other hand, are evil - he enters to kill Saladin.
- There are other points of symmetry between the two men. For example, Pamela becomes pregnant, while Alleluia secretly longs for a child. The two women play into the conceit of Saladin as a demon and Gibreel as an angel. Alleluia is cold and pure (at least in the sense that she is childless and has never married), and by climbing Everest, has come as close as any human can to the heavens. Pamela, in contrast, cheats on Saladin with Jumpy, and her sex appeal is described as earthy rather than otherworldly. The turban she wears to cover her shaved head also evokes associations with India, which ties into the identification between immigrants and the satanic ‘Goatman’ that Rushdie first established in Part V.
- Chapter 1 includes the first moments in which Saladin begins to behave like a demon, and Gibreel like an angel. For most of the novel, the conceit has been inconsistent – in Part I, Saladin is certainly more relatable than the loutish Gibreel, and his tribulations after being arrested cast him as a victim rather than as a villain. Likewise, Gibreel acts selfishly when he refuses to help Saladin, and repeatedly abandons Alleluia after verbally abusing her. However, these roles reverse in Part VII, when Gibreel is hospitalized and begins to behave more like a victim, and Saladin succumbs to his evil urges, and begins to plot Gibreel’s murder. The reversal is, of course, complete when Gibreel rescues Saladin from the fire even though he considers him an adversary.
- However, Gibreel’s association with good and Saladin’s with evil is never without ambiguity. “Consider this fallen man,” Rushdie writes. “He sought without remorse to shatter the mind of a fellow human being; and exploited, to do so, an entirely blameless woman, at least partly owing to his own impossible and voyeuristic desire for her. Yet this same man has risked death, with scarcely any hesitation, in a foolhardy rescue attempt” (482). If Saladin is evil because of his choices – as the narrator certainly leads us to believe – then we must also consider that Saladin rarely understands his own motives. Likewise, after being treated for schizophrenia, Gibreel is rarely in control of his actions because his medications make his mind sluggish and confused.
- All told, the climax serves to complicate any simplistic associations and to thereby suggest the novel's primary theme: the existence of both angelic and satanic impulses within us. Not only do each of us have the potential for good and evil, but we further cannot simply separate one from the other. In the same way that cultural identity is presented in this novel as a hodgepodge of interrelated, contradictory elements, so too does our morality not operate along a simple binary construction. Gibreel does good by pursuing evil, and Saladin does evil without realizing it.
- Although organized religion is less prominent in this section than it is in other parts of the book, it is still one of the novel’s most important themes, and thus continues to resonate. This section features the motif of sham religion – that is, people exploiting religion for material gain. Examples of this include Billy Battuta’s scam, in which he solicits rich people for money for an exorcism, and Eugene Dumsday’s anti-evolution radio show.
- Finally, though Part VII is mostly concerned with the novel's religious themes, the cultural story also comes to a head. In a relatively grounded narrative, the city breaks into riot because a black man is murdered by police brutality. The large population of those considered 'the other' come together to battle the city's persecution. In this complicated social construction, fueled by rage, misunderstanding, and unintentional hatreds, Gibreel and Saladin's story takes on an even more mythic construction. They are playing out an archetypal conflict amidst a contemporary social event, which falls perfectly in line with Rushdie's affinity for merging the surreal and realistic.
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part VIII - "The Parting of the Arabian Sea"
- This section returns to the Titlipur plotline introduced in Part IV.
- Sri Srinivas, the toy merchant who buys Ayesha’s products, is having an ordinary day at his factory in Chatnapur, a village about an hour away from Titlipur. Suddenly, the entire population of Titlipur appears in the streets, surrounded by butterflies; this is the first stop on their pilgrimage. Mirza Saeed follows the group in his Mercedes, each day trying to convince Mishal and others to join him in the car, or to fly to Mecca by airplane.
- When they arrive in Chatnapur, Mirza Saeed tries to enlist Srinivas to help talk the villagers out of their “suicide mission” (490). Srinivas, a Hindu, is dubious about the pilgrimage, but he changes his mind when he sees in Ayesha the face of the goddess Lakshmi. Although he does not convert to Islam, he joins the pilgrimage both to spend more time with Ayesha and to seek adventure. The butterflies welcome Srinivas by changing color to match the scarlet of his shirt.
- As the pilgrims continue on their journey, thirst becomes a major problem. An elderly woman named Khadija is the first to die. Mirza Saeed begs everyone to take her body to a proper burial site, hoping that the detour will dissuade them from the folly of the pilgrimage. However, the pilgrims vote unanimously to simply bury Khadija by the side of the road so they can keep going. Khadija’s distraught husband, Sarpanch Muhammad Din, is perturbed by his wife's treatment, and he joins Mirza Saeed in the Mercedes the next day.
- As the journey grows harder, the villagers begin to doubt Ayesha, who is growing more authoritarian by the day – she refuses to comfort Osman when his pet bullock dies, and she insists that the increasing number of corpses be abandoned by the side of the road. At night, the pilgrims gather around Mirza Saeed’s car to listen as he tells them stories. Ayesha threatens that the archangel will revoke his promise and refuse to part the sea if they continue to doubt him.
- Mirza Saeed and the steadily worsening Mishal have a terrible quarrel about whether to continue the pilgrimage. Mr. Qureishi, Mishal’s father and a prominent banker, comes from the city to convince his daughter to try Western medicine, but he fails. Mishal begins to sleep with Ayesha instead of with her husband. Meanwhile, several more pilgrims defect to Mirza Saeed, riding with him in the Mercedes; these are Osman, Mrs. Qureishi, and Sri Srinivas. As word of the pilgrimage spreads, it becomes a media sensation, as well as a focal point for sectarian tensions. When the pilgrims arrive in Sarang, a suburb near the sea, a violent mob of miners awaits them. The butterflies suddenly vanish.
- Ayesha is unperturbed by the threat, and leads the pilgrims through town towards the mob. Right before the confrontation begins, an incredible torrent of rain falls and disperses the miners. Mirza Saeed, Osman, and Srinivas pull Mishal and Ayesha into the Mercedes and drive them to safety. After the rain, the butterflies return, and lead the dispersed pilgrims back together. Meanwhile, a catastrophic mine accident kills 15,000 miners. The once-hostile people of Sarang begin to believe that God endorses Ayesha’s pilgrimage.
- The next day, Ayesha allows the pilgrims to worship at a mosque in Sarang. While they are praying, a local leaves a baby on the steps of the building. Upon discovering the baby, Ayesha and the Imam declare it to be a product of the devil, and they allow the surrounding crowd to stone it. This callousness disillusions the original pilgrims – who do not participate in the stoning – and they listen as Mirza Saeed interrogates Ayesha about her visions. When she admits that the archangel sings to her in the form of popular songs, the pilgrims realize they have been duped. They then dance in the mosque’s courtyard.
- Mirza Saeed offers to fly Ayesha and a few other villagers to Mecca, so that can complete the pilgrimage while preserving a shred of credibility. She initially agrees, but then decides to push on towards the sea anyway. The people follow her, determined to finish what they started. When the pilgrims arrive at the beach, the butterfly flock takes the shape of the archangel, and the villagers regain their faith. Everyone walks into the water, waiting for the sea to part. It does not, however, and they eventually sink silently beneath the waves. The doubters – Mirza Saeed, Srinivas, Mrs. Qureishi, Osman, and Muhammad Din – rush into the water to save their friends, but almost drown themselves in the process. Lifeguards try to rescue everyone, but only succeed in saving the doubters. When they are interviewed about what happened, all of the survivors except Mirza Saeed claim that they saw the sea part underwater, forming a tunnel for the pilgrims to walk through. (These observations conflict with the fact that bodies of the pilgrims are already washing up on shore.)
- Mirza Saeed returns home to Titlipur, which has begun to decay since the entire population left. He sits in his rocking chair each day, barely aware that he is starving to death. However, just as he is about to die, he notices that the village’s sacred tree is burning. He goes to investigate, and the flames engulf him. As he dies, he has a vision of himself in the sea with Ayesha. She urges him to open himself up to her, and despite an initial refusal, he eventually acquiesces. The sea parts, and they walk to Mecca together.
- This plotline echoes many of the same criticisms of religion that Rushdie makes in the London and Jahilia plots. For example, the narrator strongly implies that the villagers choose to follow Islam or Hinduism based on which will benefit them materially. Osman the clown chooses Islam to escape the restrictions that come with being a Hindu untouchable, and likewise, “Sri Srinivas, a Brahmin, was obviously not a man who had ever considered making a pilgrimage to Mecca” (489). By specifying that Srinivas is a Brahmin rather than simply a Hindu, Rushdie makes a pointed critique of Hinduism as a creed that favors the privileged and enforces the status quo (at least in some parts of India). The population of Titlipur is drawn towards Ayesha in large part because their faith assuages their unhappiness and poverty. The most dramatic critique is delivered through the way Ayesha develops an authoritarian streak similar to the one developed by Mahound in the Jahilia plot.
- Given his criticisms of religion, one might expect Rushdie to admire Mirza Saeed, the only Titlipur resident who is skeptical of Ayesha’s pilgrimage. However, Mirza Saeed is portrayed as aloof and out of touch with the common people; he follows the pilgrims in his Mercedes, and lacks the empathy to understand why they risking their lives to complete the journey. As the narrator explains, Mirza Saeed has a disease “of detachment, of being unable to connect[himself] to things, events, feelings” (504). As he becomes more desperate to save his wife, he goes from superior to pathetic, and his submission at the end of the novel suggests defeat rather than moral or logical correctness – however understandable his objections to the ‘Ayesha Hajj’ may be. In other words, rationality is not necessarily the superior approach to life. Further, when he offers to fly Ayesha and a few pilgrims to Mecca, he is paralleling Abu Simbel, who in the Jahilia plotline tempted Mahound to accept a few pagan goddesses in exchange for his support. In other words, Rushdie associates him implicitly with the devil, even as the reader can most likely sympathize with his intentions. As with everything else in The Satanic Verses, Mirza Saeed is not easily categorizable, but rather reflects a profound contradiction. Both he and Ayesha are capable of angelic and satanic impulses.
- Like the other plotlines, the Titlipur story does not have clear protagonists and antagonists. Mirza Saeed is flawed for the reasons described above, and though Ayesha can act cruelly, she never becomes a complete monster. For example, when the crowds stone the infant, they do so more at the Imam’s command than at Ayesha’s. Her quote from Scripture – that “everything will be asked of us” – is at best an implicit endorsement of the stoning (511). It can easily be interpreted to mean that they should not trouble themselves with obstacles that distract them from their path; after all, this is her perspective on eschewing proper burial for those pilgrims that die on the journey. Likewise, Mirza Saeed’s vision at the end of the plotline seems to legitimize her cause, even though the evidence in the rest of the section often points against it.
- Despite Rushdie’s issues with religion, he seems to admire the pilgrims’ faith and determination. The only true heroes of the Titlipur plot are the common people who follow Ayesha and are horrified when she descends into corruption. They do not participate in the stoning – and thus stay morally pure – and they potentially die as martyrs, if misguided ones. Their deaths serve to illustrate the cost of absolute faith, be that faith put into religion, a leader, or a political ideology.
- The Titlipur plot exists, for the most part, parallel to the other plotlines. However, it includes sly references to the themes that Rushdie emphasizes in other parts of the books. For instance, when it becomes clear that the Arabian Sea will not part for the pilgrims, the authorities accuse them of illegal immigration. This is yet another illustration of Rushdie's signature synthesis of the spiritual and political. There are also many structural parallels to the Jahilia dream: Ayesha’s corruption; her followers’ uncertainty; and Mirza Saeed’s vision just before he dies, which is very similar to Mahound’s. In both plotlines, the faithful must deal with persecution by outsiders, but despite their heroism, their faith is ultimately shown to be destructive.
The Satanic Verses Summary and Analysis of Part IX - "A Wonderful Lamp"
- Chapter 1
- Part IX takes place eighteen months after the Shaandaar Café fire.
- It turns out that Saladin had a heart attack as Gibreel was rescuing him, and it took him more than a year to recover from the ensuing bypass surgery. One day, he receives a telegram from Nasreen the Second, informing him that his father is dying quickly. Saladin instantly forgives his father for all their disagreements, and flies home to India. Coincidentally, he sits next to S.S. Sisodia on the plane. Sisodia chatters for the whole flight, and Saladin ignores him by reflecting on the past year’s events.
- John Maslama and Pinkwalla were acquitted of the narcotics charges due to a lack of evidence. Jumpy and Pamela died in the community relations center fire, which was likely started to destroy the evidence of witchcraft that Pamela was given. Gibreel produced and starred in two films based on his dreams, The Parting of the Arabian Sea and Mahound, both of which were critical and commercial flops. His fortune is quickly drying up. After her parents’ deaths, Mishal Sufyan had nightmares wherein her mother reprimanded her for her bad life choices. She responded by getting a job, marrying Hanif Johnson, and becoming the owner of the remodeled Shaandaar Café. Anahita was briefly sent to live with a conservative aunt, but intends to move in with Mishal Sufyan once the café renovations are complete.
- Saladin wonders if Zeeny will meet him at the airport (he wired her news of his arrival), but she is not there. When Saladin arrives at his old house, Nasreen the Second and Kasturba welcome him back. There is a moment of tension when Saladin learns his father does not know he is dying. Saladin insists Changez should be told, but the women feel he has no right to make demands. Changez asks Saladin to shave him, and they reconcile. Saladin laments that he has only come to know the kind, vulnerable side of Changez so soon before his death.
- Saladin and the women prepare Changez for death. They invite all his relatives and friends to a party, at which Changez enjoys himself immensely. They then send for Panikkar, a hospice doctor who at last explains to Changez that he is dying. Changez is not surprised, but he is relieved to learn that the end is unlikely to be painful. A few days later, his health declines sharply, and Saladin, Nasreen, and Kasturba bring him to the hospital, where he dies with an enigmatic smile on his face. Saladin is moved by how bravely and silently his father faced death.
- Saladin inherits the lamp his father promised him when he was a boy in Part I. After his father’s funeral, he rubs the lamp and Zeeny suddenly arrives - he assumes she must be his genie. She apologizes for not coming sooner, and they make love, after which he tells her he is changing his name back to Salahuddin. In addition to the lamp, Salahuddin receives a sizeable fortune and an old schoolhouse from his father’s estate - despite their fighting, Changez never disinherited him. He falls back in with Zeeny and Bhupen Gandhi, and together with Bhupen’s new girlfriend, Swatilekha, they attend a demonstration organized by the communist party.
- Salahuddin hears rumors that Gibreel is returning to Bombay. His new film will be “a modern-dress remake of the Ramayana story in which the heroes and heroines have become corrupt and evil” (553). Salahuddin becomes strangely nervous when he hears about Gibreel's return, and even more so when he hears that Alleluia has also come to Bombay to climb a nearby peak. She broke up with Gibreel after the Brickhall fires, and remains furious at both men.
- On the same day as the communist demonstration, Alleluia and S.S. Sisodia both die under suspicious circumstances – Alleluia falls from the same building Rekha Merchant jumped from, and Sisodia is found in Gibreel’s apartment with a bullet in his chest. While the police search for him, Gibreel arrives at Salahuddin’s house. He rants to Saladin, confessing to the murders and admitting that he still thinks himself an angel. Gibreel explains that Sisodia brought Alleluia to his house, hoping to reconcile the couple so that Gibreel would be amenable to starring in a film Sisodia was producing. However, Gibreel kept hearing the salacious rhymes that Saladin recited about Alleluia on his prank calls, and he killed them both. Just as Gibreel finishes his confession, the police knock on the door, and Gibreel absentmindedly starts rubbing the lamp. Gibreel opens the lamp and pulls out a gun, which Salahuddin realizes his father must have hidden there. Gibreel shoots himself, and Salahuddin leaves the house with Zeeny.
- This coda to the London plot sees all of the main characters – Saladin, Gibreel, and Alleluia – return to Bombay. In many ways, The Satanic Verses is an unconventional story. It upends the way literary texts normally deal with causality, character development, and the role of the narrator. However, Part IX includes many elements of the traditional literary conclusion. It includes resolutions for not only the main characters, but also for secondary figures like Mishal Sufyan and Pinkwalla. It also ties the Jahilia and Titlipur plots into the main storyline by explaining that Gibreel made his dreams into movies. When reading them, it is easy to forget that the Mahound and Ayesha stories were all dreams that Gibreel was having.
- However, the biggest departure from the rest of the novel lies in the resolution Rushdie provides for Saladin. Over the course of The Satanic Verses, characters have undergone significant change. Most obviously, Gibreel and Saladin transform into an angel and a demon, but these transformations also reveal sides of their personalities that the men had never explored before. However, these changes are not exactly character development – Gibreel and Saladin have no control over what happens to them, and the changes are arbitrary, not responses to things they have learned.
- All of this changes in Part IX. In this section, Saladin takes the humility and compassion he has learned from his ordeal, and applies it to his life. He forgives his father Changez after decades of estrangement, and tenderly cares for him during his final days. He also embraces his Indian identity by moving back to Bombay and changing his name back to Salahuddin. As if to confirm that the change is genuine, the narrator starts referring to him as Salahuddin after he reconciles with his father. Saladin also joins his friends Zeeny and Bhupen in the communist demonstration, something he would have looked askance at earlier in the novel. These changes showcase a prouder, less selfish Saladin. The narrator confirms the character’s new maturity by referring to this time in Saladin’s life as ‘childhood’s end.’
- However, Saladin is not able to break completely with his past. When he meets Panikkar, he muses to himself silently about this “name the English would mispronounce” (542). Further, when his father dies, he feels uncomfortable with the Muslim custom of putting fabric in the corpse’s mouth and under its eyelids. Although the character has turned over a new leaf, Rushdie makes it clear that his time in England will always influence his thinking and the way he interacts with his native culture. It would be disingenuous for Rushdie to suggest at novel's end that a person can be defined in a binary fashion - as simply 'Indian' or 'not Indian.' Instead, Saladin will remain a complicated mixture of identities; what has changed is that he is able to find peace with that.
- Interestingly, Saladin seems to have at least momentarily eschewed acting ambitions in this section, while Gibreel continues to produce and act in films. Considering the way that their vocations suggested their ever-shifting identities, it makes sense that Saladin would seek peace, while Gibreel continues to pursue different identities. It is perhaps Gibreel's inability to accept himself that explains the tumult that leads to his suicide.
- Near the end of the novel, Saladin paraphrases Rosa Diamond’s quip from Part III. “Now I know what a ghost is,” he thinks to himself. “Unfinished business, that’s what” (554). This observation resonates with Saladin’s inability to escape his past. Just as he cannot entirely stop thinking the way he did in London, he also cannot cut his ties with Gibreel and Alleluia, try as he might. When Gibreel visits Saladin shortly before committing suicide, he finishes some business by reconciling with his old adversary. However, he also leaves more unfinished business for Saladin by revealing that his prank phone calls in Part VII eventually caused Gibreel to murder Alleluia – a fact that will undoubtedly plague Saladin for the rest of his life. Despite Saladin’s very real character development, the events of the novel were so catastrophic that the character will always have ‘unfinished business.’
- This sense of 'unfinished business' also gives some insight into Rushdie's organization for the novel. He explores his themes through myriad variations told over four different plots (the main plot, the Mahound plot, the Ayesha plot, and the short Imam-in-exile plot). The multiple narratives reinforce the novel's idea that our identities are forever in conflict with history - the history of our country, of our religion, of our descent, and of our personal lives. Each of these stories reveal how the past influences the present, and therefore can we never escape it. As soon as we think we understand ourselves, we are confronted by a complication. In exploring how both every man and mankind in general in capable of angelic and satanic possibilities, Rushdie suggests that we only grow more complicated as our history proliferates. No matter how at peace we may become, myriad histories compete to complicate our lives and identities. Our business of self-discovery, therefore, is never complete.
In-Page Footnotes ("Gradesaver - The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie: Study Guide - Sections VII - IX")
Footnote 1: See Gradesaver.com - The Satanic Verses.
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