Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Anne R. Zahlan


Salman Rushdie's voice is one of the most powerful in postmodern and post-colonial literature. He stands as a primary spokesman for the displaced personality of those caught between the conflicting influences of traditional cultures and the contemporary west. In Midnight's Children (1980), The Satanic Verses (1989), and The Ground Beneath Her Feet (1999), Rushdie appears to reveal himself as a proponent of a garbage aesthetic. The garbage metaphor, as explained by Ella Shohat and Robert Stam in Unthinking Eurocentricism (1994), develops from Brazilian filmmakers of the 1960s and is generally used to highlight the omnipresent influence of western culture upon postcolonial society. Rushdie's works focus on modern Indian characters who are faced with the necessity of confronting the powerful influence of western culture.

Set against the immense landscape of postcolonial India, Rushdie's fictional characters are constantly confronted with the necessity of forging a coherent identity in the face of change and the powerful influence of western culture. Rushdie's novels demonstrate the necessity for rescuing what is valuable in western influence so as to invest it with native vitality and create something new and strong. Through Midnight's Children, The Satanic Verses, and The Ground Beneath Her Feet, the reader can trace a clear progression in both the development of the garbage metaphor and strategies for survival within postcolonial conditions. The garbage metaphor involves recognition of the relationship between western and native cultures, and having an aggressive attitude towards recycling all available useful resources, forming powerful new combinations of first-world and third-world cultures.

The cultural components available to societies engaged in postcolonial redefinition may be intangible as well as tangible. In his novels, Rushdie seems to adopt and manipulate western models of philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and scientific thought, such as those created by Georg Hegel, Carl Jung, Soren Kierkegaard, and Charles Darwin. A key to understanding the garbage metaphor in Rushdie's work is recognizing how these western models of thought illustrate the conflict faced by Rushdie's Indian protagonists.