Postmodern Diction in Rushdie's Shame

Noah M. Landow

Like his authorial intrusions, Rushdie's diction self-consciously draws attention to itself. For example, when he describes Bilqus's reaction when she is handed her newborn daughter, Sufiya Zinobia, his odd, whimsical choice of words underlines the fact that the story is an artifice: "When the swaddled child was handed to Bilquis, that lady could not forebear to cry, faintly, 'Is that all, my God? So much huffery and puffery to push out only this mouse?'" (p. 93). Rushdie's fondness for slang like "huffery and puffery" and hyperbole like "mouse" creates a devil-may-care mood that pervades the entire work.

Rushdie's use of what McHale calls "lexical exhibitionism" (151) also appears in his use of techical language to shake the reader loose from any sense that he has found his way into a comfortable world. For instance, Shame describes Sufiya Zinobia's intense blushing with a flamboyantly technical vocabulary: "Blushing is also burning. But it is also another thing: it is a psychosomatic event. I quote: 'The sudden shutdown of the arteriovenous anastomoses of the face floods the capillaries with the blood that produces the characteristically heightened colour.'" (p. 132). "Arteriovenous anastomoses" is not, by any means, a common expression. Its technical obscurity gives it a prominence which Rushdie expertly uses to disrupt the natural flow of the sentence.

Postcolonial Web Pakinstan OV Rushdie OV Shame OV