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Good Advice Is Rarer than Rubies by Salman Rushdie

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  • Pages: 6
  • Word count: 1293
  • Category: Novel

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One Tuesday morning, the beautiful Miss Rehana leaves a bus in front of the British Consulate somewhere in Pakistan. Her parents are dead,and her fiancé,who lives in Bradford and who she has not seen since she was nine years old,has sent for her,and she has come to apply for a visa to immigrate to Britain. She is immediately accosted (D.: jmd.ansprechen) by the advice expert Muhammad Ali,who is so attracted to the beautiful young girl,that he even offers her his advice for free. Miss Rehana conscientiously uses his advice, but not to”pass” the test. Instead, she deliberately (D.:mit Absicht) fails,telling Muhammad afterwards that she has a job in a great house as ayah /nanny to three boys who would have been very sad to see her go.

Structure of the plot

Rushdie has always been fascinated by motion pictures, and the action of this single incident is presented to the reader as if he was watching actors in a film. At the beginning of the story Miss Rehana is at first concealed (D.: verborgen) by a cloud of dust,and then makes a dramatic entrance when she descends from the bus. The narrative is divided into short scenes, in which the reader forms certain expectations as to (D:hinsichtlich) how the narrative could continue.

p.203 -205 /15 : the reader has formed the impression that Miss Rehana is a beautiful and polite young lady.

p.205/16-206/27: Miss Rehana does not seem to be so polite any longer, as she is obviously making fun of the old man.
p.206/28-208/2: Muhammad Ali,the crook and swindler,who usually feels no guilt when it  comes to tricking women into giving him money,is giving his advice for free.

p.208/3- 208/25: Miss Rehana is angry now and the old man feels like a fool, as she tells him off (D: jmd. ausschimpfen) p.208/26- 210/29: Miss Rehana is happy again. Against all the expectations she does not want to leave Pakistan and go to Britain to marry Mustafa Dar. Muhammad is puzzled,but impressed by Miss Rehana`s determination and the beautiful smile she gives him when she departs.

The theatrical opening finds its parallel in the ending:”Her last smile,which he watched from the compound until the bus concealed it in a dust-cloud,was the happiest thing he had ever seen in his long,hot,hard,unloving life.”

The compound . Rushdie has revived the colonial setting of the compound or contact zone.The area in and around it is clearly defined by a bus-stop,a shanty-town and the closely guarded consulate,where the privileges for entry to the West are granted. The author wants to show that colonial structures still exist even after independence and that entry to the West is still regarded as a privilege.

Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies by Salman Rushdie

Point of view

The story is told by a third-person narrator who concentrates on Muhammad Ali. He offers us insight into Muhammad`s motives and his fascination with Miss Rehana. As the reader concentrates more or less on him and forgets about Miss Rehana, the outcome of the story comes very much as a surprise to him.

The story is written in a very simple style with relatively short sentences. The reader is not distracted (D.: ablenken) from the events by any subplots or long,descriptive passages. An important feature is the spoken language, which gives a realistic sense of the way many people speak in Pakistan.

Muhammad`s English is not fluent and full of grammar mistakes. In contrast to him Miss Rehana`s English is perfect; she has probably had a better education.The protagonists`s language contains elements which are typically English (“tip-top”,”absolutely topsy-turvy”). On the other hand, Hindi,Urdu and Arabic expressions also come up (“lala,sahib,pukka,babuji,bibi,salaam,wallah”). Besides there are expressions which the Western reader might class as being oriental: “Good advice is rarer than rubies.” “When fate sends a gift,one receives good fortune.” Finally there are expressions which the oriental reader might class as being British: “.. a great nation full of the coldest fish in the world.” Rushdie does not only underline the post-colonial consequences of the spread of the English language but also the question how it has mixed with indigenous (D: einheimisch) languages to form a hybrid language,which both the colonizer and the colonized can understand.

Miss Rehana
She is different from all the other Tuesday women. From the very beginning, the author stresses her breath-taking beauty by which she attracts the bus-driver`s, Muhammad`s and the Consulate official`s attention . When the advice-giver Muhammad Ali approaches her to give her advice, she confidently informs him that she is a poor orphan and cannot give him any money. Under her spell (D: Zauber), he offers his advice for free,which she accepts. However, she is by no means the docile and shy young woman the reader expects. She forms her own ideas and knows about what is right or wrong.Probably, she has learnt only to rely on herself. To the reader she appears as very self-confident, conscientious, content with her present situation,polite ,but also quite firm and strict when the situation demands it.

Muhammad Ali
He is a merciless crook who exploits the situation of those who try anxiously to get permission to enter Great Britain. Muhammad cannot do without the money he is given by these women. Yet Miss Rehana obviously manages to twist him around her little finger by her beauty, that he does not appear as the powerful advice-giver any longer who knows everything. He is suddenly a foolish old man ,who has lost his head, because of a young woman who even makes fun of him. His male pride is extremely hurt,when Miss Rehana turns down his advice.

Good Advice Is Rarer Than Rubies by Salman Rushdie

The story opens with the description of the bus which brings Miss Rehana to the compound: it is decorated with oriental arabesques but also with Western slogans, and can therefore not be classed as belonging to one culture or the other – it cannot be stereotyped. Miss Rehana is not the beautiful,polite young lady she seems to be and Muhammad is not the corrupt crook. The narrative structure underlines in which way stereotypes are formed,and by disappointing the expectations the reader has formed,Rushdie wishes to make the reader aware of the mechanisms which lead to stereotyping. Rushdie stresses that the reader should reflect on historical and cultural processes which have determined our way of seeing things.

Links to other stories
Although it is not a central issue, Spark`s “The Black Madonna” also deals with immigration. However, it shows the racism which some immigrants experienced when they entered Britain, whereas Rushdie underlines the fact that immigration is not always the ideal solution. Stereotyping: This also an issue in Qaisra Sharaz`s “A Pair of Jeans”: in the eyes of the future in-laws Miriam is at first the ideal stereotypical Muslim daughter-in-law, but when she sees her dressed in Western clothes she is automatically stereotyped as the wild, disobedient girl.

The author
Rushdie was born in Bombay in 1947 to a middle-class Muslim family.he was educated at the Engluish public school Rugby and studied at King`s College Cambridge.His fourth novel, “The Satanic Verses” opens with two Indian actors falling from the sky after a jumbo jet is hijacked and explodes. The novel was controversial as it dealt with the founder of Islam , Muhammad, in a satirical way. This led to accusations of blasphemy against Islam, so that the novel was banned in many countries and was burned in the streets of Bradford. Iran`s spiritual leader at that time, issued a fatwa (a legal pronouncement) calling on all Muslims to kill the writer and the publishers of the book, which forced Rushdie to go into hiding.

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