Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Falling (Certainly NOT Failing) Metaphors in The Satanic Verses

Towards the beginning of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (specifically in the first book, "The Angel Gibreel"), Rushdie presents multiple metaphors to represent the plane crash. Here, everyone on board, including migrants and the main characters Gibreel and Saladin, is plummeting towards the English Channel. The migrants are ironically described as being treated reasonably by officials, who have searched even their genitalia as thoroughly as possible, but are described moments later as "equals." They are as equally broken and fragmented as the plane that is plummeting towards the water below. This seems to place the migrants on the same level as everyone else on the plane, including Saladin Chamca, who is described as "going down head first, in the recommended position for babies entering the birth canal" (Rushdie 5). This particular metaphor of a baby entering the birth canal made me wonder: in the context of postcolonial studies, are these people who are referred to as "migrants" placed in this context voluntarily? Could these subtle mentions of characters such as the migrants be a reason as to why The Satanic Verses can be viewed through a postcolonial scope?

The term migrant generally refers to those people who are introduced to a new population or habitat. Using the term to describe these people seems to be problematic, however, because of the metaphor presented by the narrator of a baby entering the birth canal. Though conception may or may not be choice made by the parents of a baby, the baby has no choice on whether or not they choose to be born. It's involuntary. Though the officials seem to believe they have reason to suspect the migrants, the other metaphors offered by the narrator, such as "severed mother-tongues, violated privacies, untranslatable jokes" (5), seems to confirm that an outside presence (the colonizer) is responsible for the migrant status of the people plummeting from the plane. "Severed mother-tongues" seems to refer to the snatching of a characteristic (specifically language) from an oppressed group, while "violated privacies" seems to also imply a forceful act upon an unwilling recipient. So are these people placed in the body of a migrant by choice or involuntarily? These examples, given by the narrator, seems to suggests that they are, indeed, placed in an unfamiliar situation by a forceful colonizer.

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