Salman Rushdie Midnight's Children


Winner of the 1981 Booker Prize, the 1993 ‘Booker of Bookers’ and the ‘Best of the Booker’ in 2008, Midnight’s Children is one of the best-loved novels of the twentieth century. Its author, Salman Rushdie, was born just months before India’s independence from British colonial rule and, like the novel’s narrator Saleem Sinai, he grew up as a witness of his country’s struggle for democracy, justice and peace.

Midnight's Children

Midnight’s Children is an exuberant, riotous celebration of the richness of Indian society, but it also contains stark criticisms, particularly of politicians. It is an adventure-story, a love-story and a thriller, a war novel and an international and multi-generational portrait of India in the three decades after Independence.


The activities in this module invite you to consider the political significance of the novel in four stages.

Activity 1 - Autobiographical introductions compares Midnight’s Children with other literary texts, asking you to consider the significance of the novel’s form as fictional autobiography.

Activity 2 - Language and atrocity takes a closer look at two key passages to explore the way that Rushdie uses literary techniques to make political points.

Activity 3 - Use your ImagiNation introduces you to some key ideas from postcolonial theory and asks you to consider the relationship between fiction and nation.

Activity 4 - Speaking to / speaking for the nation develops these ideas further and invites you to reflect on your own experiences of reading international literature in English.

Resource activities

Autobiographical Openings

The first paragraph of Midnight’s Children proclaims its place in a long tradition of fictional autobiographies. Examine this opening in this activity.


Language and Atrocity

One characteristic of Midnight’s Children that many readers find especially appealing is the richness of its prose. Discover how language is used in this activity.



What is the role of 'nation' in this text? Explore these ideas in this activity.


Speaking to or speaking for the nation

How are we examining this as a political text and what might be the problems with this?


Activity questions

  • One special challenge for the bildungsroman is to communicate the experience of childhood and growing up. How well do you think Rushdie succeeds in creating the world of the young Saleem?
  • Why does Saleem believe himself to be breaking up? What do you think happens after the end of the novel?
  • What does the novel suggest about the relationships between truth, reality and memory? What kind of a truth is to be found in fiction and fantasy?
  • Rushdie wrote Haroun and the Sea of Stories for his son and published it in 1990. Although it is a children’s book, it’s a great text to read alongside Midnight’s Children because it deals with many of the same issues that the novel addresses – and it’s delightfully and beautifully written. Read both texts, and think about the different ways that Rushdie presents the literary and political questions which most concern him.
  • Do some research into other novels that fit the category of ‘postcolonial literature in English’. Is such a category helpful?

Reflective questions

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Task 1

What are the key arguments, concepts, points contained within it?

Task 2

What are you struggling to understand?

What could you do to improve your understanding of these concepts/terminology etc.?

Task 3

What further questions has this resource raised for you?

What else are you keen to discover about this topic and how could you go about learning more?

Can you make any links between this topic and your prior knowledge or school studies?

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