Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Midnight's Children” by Salman Rushdie that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in the text and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Midnight's Children” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Midnight's Children” by Salman Rushdie at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: Tasting the Pickles of History
One of Rushdie’s many attractive qualities as a writer is his clever use of humorous images and metaphors to describe and discuss incredibly controversial and painful issues. One of the recurrent images in Midnight’s Children is the “pickles of history." Pickles, of course, are an edible comestible, but they have curious properties—they are sour and yet somehow appealing for many people. Considering the entire panorama of history presented in Midnight’s Children, write an essay in which you explain the pickles of history as conceptualized by Rushdie.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: Magical Realism in “Midnight's Children” by Salman Rushdie
Magical realism is typically considered to be dominated by Latin American writers, but there are obvious elements of magical realism in Midnight’s Children. The fantastic and the magical, the exaggerated and the almost unreal, are used to imaginatively portray controversial subjects, especially in societies that have converted from colonies to independence. Write an essay in which you explain why magical realism is an effective—and perhaps, even a necessary—literary style for Rushdie to employ in this novel. You may wish to consider extra-textual evidence about Rushdie and the fatwa issued against him, the colonial history of India, and the circumstances of exile as factors that motivate a writer like Rushdie to talk about difficult circumstances using the guise of fantastic, magical elements.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Value of Stories in Midnight's Children
Within the larger frame of the novel’s narrative, there are many smaller stories that are told, a technique that Rushdie uses time and again in his fiction works. Stories are culturally important, but they are also deployed here for specific purposes, intended to convey particular lessons, and to do so through metaphor, symbol, and image. Consider one or more of the stories within the novel and explain the value that it imbues to the larger narrative. Make a claim about whether it would be possible for Rushdie to convey so much information, emotion, and opinion without using this technique.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: Fragmentation
Midnight’s Children is a novel that is fragmented, making frequent and abrupt transitions of place, time, and character. Far from being a careless mistake of the author, the fragmentation in this novel serves vital psychological functions, reflecting the divisive experiences of colonialism and post-colonialism. The extreme fragmentation may cause difficulty for the reader, thrusting him or her into the same feeling state experienced by exiles and the characters Rushdie portrays. Examine one or more aspects of fragmentation—either at the literary level or the psychic level—and evaluate how they influenced your reading experience. Explain whether, and if so, how, you were able to achieve integration by the novel’s conclusion.
Thesis Statement/Essay Topic #5: Experiencing the World Through the Senses
One of the ways in which the characters in Midnight’s Children experience, interpret, and come to understand their circumstances is by relying upon their five senses, especially sight, smell, and hearing. Rushdie does a masterful job of transporting the reader into the setting by negotiating these intense sensory images effectively. Write an essay in which you compare and contrast the relative importance of the five senses. For an argumentative essay on “Midnight's Children” make a claim or argument as to which of these senses is most important, both for the characters and for the reader, as a means of “reading" one’s world.
This list of important quotations from “Midnight's Children” by Salman Rushdie will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Midnight's Children” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Rushdie they are referring to.
Sometimes legends make reality, and become more useful than the facts." (47)
“Using my nose (because although it has lost the powers which enabled it, so recently, to make history), it has acquired other compensatory gifts…." (54)
“Newspapers shall praise him, two mothers shall raise him.! Bicyclists love him, but crowds will shove him! Washing will hide him- voices will guide him! Friends mutilate him- blood will betray him! Spitoons will brain him- doctors will drain him- jungle will claim him – wizards reclaim him! Soldiers will try him- tyrants will fry him. He will have sons without having sons. He will be old before he is old.. And he will die….before he is dead." (96)
“Dear baby Saleem , My belated congratulations on the happy accident of your moment of birth! You are the newest bearer of that ancient face of India which is also eternally young. We shall be watching over your life with the closest attention; it will be a sense, the mirror of our own." (139)
“Reality is a question of perspective; the further you get from the past, the more concrete and plausible it seems—but as you approach the present, it inevitably seems incredible." (189)
“Midnight has many children; the offspring of Independence were not all human. Violence, corruption, poverty, generals, chaos, greed, and pepperpots…. I had to go into exile to learn that the children of midnight were more varied than I—even I—had dreamed." (333)
“I had also been overwhelmed by an agonizing feeling of sympathy for the country which was not only my twin in birth but also joined to me (so to speak) at the hip, so that what happened to either of us, happened to us both. If I, snot- nosed and stain faced etcetera, had had a hard time of it the so had she, my sub continental twin sister; and now that I had given myself the right to choose a better future, I was resolved that the nation should share it too." (444)
“We, the children of Independence, rushed wildly and too fast into our future; he, Emergency-born, will be is already more cautious, biding his time; but when he acts, he will be impossible to resist. Already, he is stronger, harder, more resolute than I…." (489)
“One day, perhaps, the world may taste the pickles of history. They may be too strong for some palates, theur smell may be overpowering, tears may rise to eyes; I hope nevertheless that it will be possible to say of them that they possess the authentic taste of truth….that they are despite everything, acts of love." (531)
“Yes, they will trample me underfoot, they will trample my son who is not my son, and his son who will not be his, and his who will not be his, until the thousand and first generation, until thousand and one midnights have bestowed their terrible gifts and a thousand and one children have died, because it is the privilege an the curse of midnight's children to be both masters and victims of their times, to forsake privacy and be sucked into the annihilating whirlpool of the multitudes, and to be unable to live or die in peace. (533)
Reference: Rushdie, Salman. Midnight’s Children. New York: Penguin, 1991.