Migration, Character, and Event in Salman Rushdie's Shame

Margaret Hander, English 27, Postcolonial Studies, Brown University, Autumn 1997

In chapter 5 of section II, "The Duellists" Rushdie philosophizes about migration.

And I have a theory that the resentments we mohajirs engender have something to do with our conquest of the force of gravity. We have performed the act of which all men anciently dream, the thing for which they envy the birds; that is to say, we have flown.

I am comparing gravity with belonging. Both phenomena observably exist: my feet stay on the ground... to explain why we stay attatched to our birthplaces we pretend that we are trees and speak of roots. Look at your feet. You will not find gnarled growths sprouting through the soles. Roots, I sometimes think, are a conservative myth, designed to keep us in our places. [84]

Debate of freedom vs. connection to one's "roots" appears throughout our considerations of works we have read this far in the class. It seems a discussion of cultural hybridization can not be had without touching upon this issue.

What characters and events in Rushdie's narrative further develop this theme of the migrant's fortunes, misfortunes and conflicts? In what other contexts have we previously discussed just this? (I think of Saro-Wiwa's "Home Sweet Home" when the narrator analizes which aspects of her character she owes to her Dukana upbringing and which she had gained through foreign education.)

How do the glimpses of this novel's narrator's own life story relate to the stories of his characters with this focus in mind?

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