From the 17th century and up to the present, English novels have been a passionate, aesthetic and educative practice. Novels and the world are mutually constitutive; reading novels creates and sustains strong attachments in the reader. Novels have become available for interrogations of class identity, sexual, racial issues, and intellectual liberation, as well as of pleasure. It is through reading novels that readers acquire new perspectives and knowledge to solve daily challenges. However, occurrences happen within a certain period of time, whereby some happen sporadically, whilst others take time to mature (Riclur 57).
In ‘Midnight’s Children’, the author struggles to compare himself with his native country - India. It is the difference between the majority and minorities that makes it an independent country. In India, there are more than twenty two tribes and different religions, ranging from Christianity, Buddhism Hinduism, and Sikhism to Islam. Since the culture of India was influenced by other cultures during its development period, it was difficult to maintain peace. There was and still is a blurred division between India and Pakistan. In the novel ‘Midnight’s Children’, Saleem is a child who closely watches the Protestants attempting to divide Bombay, one of the cities in India, along linguistic and tribal lines (Rushdie 167). On the other hand, the novel ‘Jacob’s Room’ portrays incidents, moments, unfinished conversations, landscapes and moods at a time when Jacob was living in Cornwall. He then joins Cambridge college and dwells in London during his adulthood (Woolf 18).
Saleem acknowledges his misplacement of Gandhi’s death, which is an inspiring moment in his recollections of India. He also incorrectly remembers the date of the general elections in the country. He is worried about his bitter history and frets over possible future mistakes. Even after acknowledging his past errors and his fateful occurrence versions, Saleem decides not to go back. There were many inaccuracies in his history, which required to be perfected. However, he compares them with different religious texts (Rushdie 168). He considers his history to be similar to that of India. According to Saleem, authenticity of history depends greatly on the perspective of the people concerned, as well as their willingness to believe. In ‘Jacob’s Room’, the author allows the reader to follow Jacob as a small boy. He goes to college and encounters various assignations from prostitutes. He has remarkable interest in education and does all familial duties given to him by his loving mother. His room is the main theme in the story. The author depicts moments when people manifest multiple senses of ambiguity and various shadows that they experience in their daily life (Woof 29).
There is conspicuous enmity between Shiva and Saleem, which represents the natural conflict between destructive and creative forces in the world (Genette & Gerard 111). This enmity started when the two were born simultaneously at midnight, the midnight of India’s independence. Saleem was delivered into the hands of the Widow with the aim of destroying the midnight’s children. However, the midnight’s children were not to blame, and they did not deserve such a horrible fate. On the other hand, Virginia Woolf believes that men and women are equally to blame. She urges that impartial, profound and just opinions regarding our fellow human beings, be they male or female, young or old, are absolutely unknown. They have no contribution to all this, as it is a matter of nature and time. Virginia Woolf believes that life is a demonstration of shadows. According to her, it is only God who understands why human beings embrace these aspects eagerly, and they later see their departure as shadows (Woolf 67).
A perforated sheet appears to be symbolic in ‘Midnight’s Children.’ This is where Aadam Aziz falls in love with a woman who was to be his wife. However, he did not intend to see his wife fully and, therefore, loved her ‘in small pieces’. There was no cohesive unity between them, and they could not be held together as one. Consequently, their love and marriage were fragmented. Similarly, their daughter, Amina, had a fragmented love, since she could not wholly love her new husband. She still remembered her previous husband and decided to love the new husband ‘in small bits’. Thus, the history of her father partly loving her mother repeats itself. Her love for Ahmed is not complete and lacks cohesive unity. Therefore, the holes in the perforated sheet do not only represent unfilled void, but also a threshold for vision (Kristeva 132). On the other hand, Virginia has several symbols to represent vision, such as windows of lighthouses and eyes. It all depends on the time of use of one of these vision-related devices. Lack of consciousness is represented by toads, crabs and some insects.
There was an estate, which belonged to William Methwold of England. It had four identical houses having different European palace names. Saleem’ parents agreed to purchase one of the houses and every piece of property in it. The legal transfer of the house will be done on the famous midnight (Rushdie 169). Jacob Flanders and Betty Flanders, his mother, are the heroes in Jacob’s Room. Jacob’s character changes from when he was in college to the time he becomes an independent adult. He has evasive qualities in the beginning, but does not maintain them to the end (Woolf 79).
India was to gain independence at midnight. The lucky child who was to be born at the exact time was promised a prize by the Times of India. Amina was remembering the words of the prophet and she declared that her son was to win the promised prize. As summer rains began, the baby inside Amina’s tiny body grew so large that she could hardly move. By the time the rains stopped, Wee Willie Winkie had returned to the estate. He revealed that his wife was also pregnant and would have a baby soon. Saleem narrates that the baby, Winkie, was actually from Methwold, the Englishman, who seduced and impregnated his wife. On the night she went into labor, Mary Pereira made a remarkable decision that was to be remembered in India forever (Rushdie 169). By contrast, Jacob met his fate when he was killed during World War I. His mother and her friend went into his room and said that it would be better for Jacob not to come back, since his room was so untidy. This announces his death even before he is killed (Woolf 123).
The city of Bombay is literally alive, as people eagerly await independence from the British. The country of Pakistan was to be created one day before India was proclaimed independent. There are a series of occurrences as people prepare for freedom and independence. William Methwold and Ahmed were drinking a cocktail at the estate, while Aadam was getting out of his bed in Agra. He nostalgically pulled out the perforated sheet. To his surprise, moths had eaten the sheet and added some new holes in it,besides enlarging the original ones. In Jacob’s room, there were two chairs and a round table. There was a jar with yellow flowers, his mother’s photograph society cards with raised crescents, notes, pipes and a coat of arms. There were also some papers and an essay entitled ‘Does History Consist of the Biographies of Great Men?’ on the table. Enough books for those interested in reading were also available. The room remained empty most of the times. The silence in the room is symbolic (Marin & Louis 179). Jacob is killed after some time and the silence prevails in the room forever.
On the night India gained independence, Vanita, Willie Winkie’s wife, and Amina, went into labor. William Methwold came into the courtyard of the estate, which once belonged to him. He stood at the center and saluted the landscape. After a few minutes, the holy man entered and proclaimed the birth of Mubarak, the only one. Vanita and Amina gave birth to two boys at the same time. Mary Pereira exchanged baby tags of the two babies and this led to exchange of the babies. Biologically, Saleem belonged to Vanita and Willie Winkie, but he was given to Amina and Ahmed (Rushdie 134). In ‘Jacob’s Room’, the author shows an old woman sitting on a stool after sunset, with her back turned towards the wall of Smith’s Bank and Union of London. She is holding a brown dog in her hands and singing loudly. She regrets her sinful past, wishing that no kid was listening to her wild song. She is now old and can by no means return to her youth to correct her mistakes. Time has elapsed and she has to face the reality the way it is (Woolf 168).
As Britain prepares to transfer sovereignty to Pakistan and India, Methwold prepares to transfer his estate to other owners. Both transfers were smooth and complete. The new India had a great task of dealing with British culture, which usually dominates a nation after independence is gained. Similarly, the new occupants of Methwold’s estate are to live with the sellers’ properties. One of the conditions of purchasing the estate was to buy the house and everything in it. The inhabitants start to behave like Methwold, the same way Great Britain continues to influence India’s decision and activities. Britain regrets leaving India the same way Methwold is traumatized by nostalgia for the estate (Barthes & Roland 147). On the other hand, Virginia Woolf portrays Jacob as a clever, popular and handsome man. His childhood years are gone when he goes to college, and enters his adulthood in London (Woolf 133). The man has a complicated personality, and it is hard to understand his main stand as time passes by.
As Saleem’s birthday approaches, there appears to be a break in the narrative. Apparently, the main theme of the whole novel is revealed. Saleem takes control of everything, as he believes he has worked hard to reach this point (Rushdie 170). He narrates his family history again to make his birth full of significance. Surprisingly, the story Saleem narrates with such confidence is not his but that of Shiva. This is where Aadam discovers that the perforated sheet has been destroyed by moths. The destruction of the sheet prefigures the truth of the entire narrative. Virginia Woolf places the main focus on a clear sequence of events. Frustration and inner consciousness of human beings are narrated in traditional narrative styles (Woolf 143). The novel is deliberately splintered and fragmented.
Even after revealing the truth to the reader, Saleem remains the narrator of the novel. The story he narrates does not concern him at all, but he relays it with great confidence making the reader believe it is his. The truth is only known after his open discussion. This brings out the fact that the truth is not static and fixed, but it is shaped by people. Everything can be the truth, provided the narrator makes it look like the truth. Irrespective of the fact that Amina and Ahmed are not his biological parents, Saleem enjoys all the rights a child is entitled to at birth. Virginia Woolf’s open-ended themes include sex, youth, students’ life, British urban cultures, prostitution, war, peace, flower life shadows and theology. All these themes are arranged according to the events in each paragraph.
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It is really pertinent to have William Methwold as Saleem’s biological father. Saleem claims to be the best incarnation of independent India, but it was William Methwold who shaped Saleem, just as the British shaped the future of India. By exchanging the nametags of the two midnight children, Mary Pereira shaped the political situation of the country in the twentieth century. It also seemed to have bridged the gap between the rich and the poor. Saleem, a son of a poor mother, who died immediately after childbirth, and a foreign father, who goes back to England, becomes a paramount representative of India as a nation (Rushdie 171). Every part of ‘Jacob’s Room’ announces the death of Jacob. The author shows how people feel and act in different situations. Jacob’s mother is among those who prophesized the unhappy fate that eventually befell him.
In ‘Midnight’s Children’, Saleem Sinai acts as a first-person narrator, who relays the story night after night. This chronological style makes the themes clear to all readers and can be directly compared to daily life events. Padma is a female character, who directly comments on Saleem’s narration. Chapter eight is a narration of India gaining independence, as well as the birth of two midnight children, one of which was to shape India’s political future. ‘Jacob’s Room’ is full of chronologically narrated incidents of great significance. The author depicts different characters living separately and parallel to one another. However, all these characters have crossed paths with Jacob, whose fate is already predetermined. The characters were forced to be in those situations by those in authority, coincidence or impersonality.
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