Salman Rushdie

Exploring Identity and Belongingness in Salman Rushdie’s popular novels

5 mins read

Salman Rushdie is an Indian-born novelist known for his diverse collection of stories that often reflect his experiences as an immigrant. His works are renowned for exploring themes such as identity and belongingness, which are recurring motifs throughout his writing. Through his characters, Rushdie explores the complexities of these themes, delving into the struggles and triumphs of individuals seeking to find their place in the world.

Read along to explore the intricacies of identity and belongingness in some of his famous novels, examining how his lived experience as an immigrant from the Indian subcontinent shapes his characters' journeys.

A brief introduction to Salman Rushdie and his works

Ahmed Salman Rushdie is an Indian-born novelist who has significantly contributed to the literary world. He was born on June 19, 1947, in Bombay, now known as Mumbai, and studied at the University of Cambridge in England.

His first book, "Grimus," was published in 1975. However, his second novel, "Midnight's Children," brought him international acclaim, and it won the Booker Prize in the year 1981. In addition to that, it is widely regarded as one of the finest literary pieces of the 20th century.

Rushdie's other notable works include "Shame," "The Satanic Verses," and "Haroun and the Sea of Stories." He has also authored several collections of stories and essays.

His work often explores themes of lived experience, the immigrant experience, and identity, particularly concerning the Indian subcontinent. He is known for using magical realism and his skilful blending of historical fact and fiction.

Rushdie's work has not been without controversy. In 1989, the publication of "The Satanic Verses" sparked protests and a fatwa, or religious edict, calling for his death. He hid for several years to dodge the death threats. Still, he continued to write and speak out against censorship and religious extremism. Despite this controversy, Rushdie's work remains highly regarded and continues to be read and studied by audiences worldwide.

Importance of exploring identity and belongingness in literature

Exploring identity and belongingness in literature is crucial as it helps us understand ourselves better and those around us. Literature often reflects the struggles and experiences of individuals and communities in relation to their sense of identity and belongingness. By examining these themes in literature, we can gain insight into the complexities of human relationships and the influence of cultural, political, and social factors on our sense of self and connection to others.

Furthermore, literature can also challenge our assumptions and biases, broadening our perspectives and promoting empathy and understanding.

Here are a few of his writings through which a reader can explore the themes of identity and belongingness.

Midnight's Children

"Midnight's Children" delves into the theme of identity and belongingness, integral to the novel's plot. The story takes place in India and centers on characters struggling with questions of identity and belongingness following India's independence.

Saleem Sinai, the protagonist, is born at the precise moment of India's independence and is plagued with a sense of fate and purpose. As the story progresses, Saleem's beliefs are challenged, and he is forced to confront his true identity. Rushdie employs magical realism to blur the line between fact and fiction and a nonlinear narrative structure that follows Saleem's life through various stages, revealing events that have influenced his identity.

The novel also explores the notion of national identity as India navigates the challenges of defining its identity post-independence. Rushdie's characters, such as Saleem and his rival Shiva, reveal the impact of circumstance and choice in shaping their sense of belongingness.

"Midnight's Children" is an intricate exploration of the complexities of identity and belongingness in postcolonial India, with a captivating narrative structure and well-developed characters that highlight the impact of cultural, historical, and individual factors on one's sense of self.


"Shame" is a novel that explores the theme of identity and belongingness in post-colonial Pakistan. The characters in the story, especially the two main protagonists, Omar Khayyam Shakil, and Iskander Harappa, struggle to find their place in a society where power and politics are closely intertwined.

The story follows the characters' quests for power and self-discovery, highlighting the challenges of finding one's place in a society that is still grappling with its post-colonial identity. The novel sheds light on the legacy of colonialism and the ongoing struggle for control in post-colonial Pakistan.

Rushdie offers a powerful commentary on the human condition through his insightful analysis of the characters' struggles. The novel is compelling and forces readers to confront the complexity of identity and belongingness in a post-colonial world.

The Satanic Verses

"The Satanic Verses" explores the theme of identity and belongingness through the stories of two Indian actors, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha. After surviving a plane crash, they are transformed into supernatural beings, and their struggles with identity and belonging drive the plot.

Gibreel Farishta is a Bollywood actor who believes he is the archangel, Gabriel. He searches for a sense of belongingness and tries to reconcile his identity with his various roles in his career. Saladin Chamcha, on the other hand, has completely rejected his cultural identity and assimilated into British society. However, his transformation into a grotesque, goat-like creature forces him to confront the consequences of his assimilation and grapple with his cultural identity.

The novel also explores the themes of religion and faith as both characters struggle with their beliefs and spirituality. Rushdie weaves in religious symbolism and mythology throughout the story, intertwining Gibreel's visions and dreams.

Overall, "The Satanic Verses" is a complex and thought-provoking novel that delves into the importance of understanding and accepting one's cultural and personal identity. Through the main character's struggles, Rushdie highlights the consequences of rejecting one's identity and the complexities of finding a sense of belongingness in a constantly changing world.


In conclusion, Salman Rushdie, an acclaimed novelist, has explored the theme of identity and belongingness in many of his famous novels, including "Shame" and "The Satanic Verses."

Through the struggles of his complex characters, he delves into questions of personal and cultural identity, as well as the consequences of rejecting or suppressing one's true identity. His insightful analysis of these themes gives readers a thought-provoking and compelling commentary on the human condition. Rushdie's novels encourage readers to explore their own identities and embrace the diverse identities of others, making his works relevant in today's world.


Was Salman Rushdie born in India?

Yes, he was born in India on June 19, 1947. He was born in the city of Bombay (now Mumbai).

Can Salman Rushdie travel to India?

Yes, Salman Rushdie can travel to India. However, there were some restrictions on his travel to India due to the controversy surrounding his book "The Satanic Verses".

Why is "The Satanic Verses" a controversial book?

"The Satanic Verses" is a controversial book because it was perceived by many Muslims as being blasphemous towards the Islamic faith, particularly about the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. It led to a fatwa (religious edict) being issued against Rushdie by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, in 1989, which forced Rushdie to go into hiding for several years.

Why is Salman Rushdie a famous personality?

Salman Rushdie became famous primarily because of his literary works, particularly his novels. He has won numerous literary awards and honours, including the Booker Prize in 1981 for his book "Midnight's Children".

Dolly Hansdah

Dolly is a dedicated content specialist with an MA in English Literature. She creates captivating, SEO-driven content that connects with audiences, achieves goals, and fosters meaningful connections. Dolly's ambition is to carve a niche in heartfelt storytelling that leaves a lasting impact and drives conversions. In her free time, she enjoys binge-watching Netflix and immersing herself in the literary realm.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Latest from Brown News