The reading of Haroun and the Sea of Stories has come to an end, and I’m kind ofsad. I liked the book a lot, it was a fresh take on an idea using old concepts, and I entirely appreciate the use of imagery throughout the novel. The ending to the book was slightly uneventful in the death of Khattam-Shud and the quick leave of Haroun and Rashid back to Alifbay, but I loved how it closed out with them in the Saddest City (which we find out is actually named Kahani!). At the end of the book, happy rain falls on the Saddest City through the magic of the Walrus, and Haroun is against it as it gives the people a false sense of contentment with their lives. I thought this was interesting, because it makes me wonder if happiness should still be enjoyed, even if it comes from a lie.
Going off of this, our discussion yesterday had a lot to do with this idea of deception we found within the book. Our main focus as a class for Haroun was on the thought of “fictional stories are morally good lies”. It came up in the discussion that the type of lying books do when they are trying to teach a morally good lesson is a white lie, where a falseness is created in order to better others. Deception has too much of a negative connotation to say that books deceive their readers, but saying that they act as an author’s white lie solves that problem.
Technically, the definition of a lie from James Mahon is, “1) A person must make a statement and believe that statement to be false; and 2) The person making the statement must intend for the audience to believe that the statement is true.” Personally, I don’t believe fictional books are lies, especially when the reader knows that nothing in the book is true. However, people can pretend or visualize a world where the story’s event are true, and children are usually ones who believe fictional stories wholeheartedly. Haroun is definitely a children’s story by it being so whimsical with a clear lesson to learn and hard conflicts, but the story Haroun teaches ties into the ideas of The Storytelling Animal by Johnathon Gottschall. In the article “The Moral of the Story” by David Eagleman, the ideas behind Gottschall’s book are looked into to understand how stories define people. One of these ways is that we use stories, particularly fictional children’s books, to make people learn. If stories are lies, authors deceive people into learning morals all of the time.
At the level of literary analysis, the story of Haroun was interesting through the issues that came up above, and because it was a contradiction of itself. It was a story about a boy trying to help his father be able to tell stories again while asking “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” the entire time. Haroun taught a lesson by showing the importance of stories within the book, and did this all while making the reader enjoy the book itself. There were many smaller themes as well, like the idea of opposites and taking risks. Haroun was very wholesome, and this was aided by it’s appearance as a children’s book.
We used lenses to analyze the book with a focus point for annotation, and for projects we presented to the class (post on that coming soon). The 4 lenses our class was divided up into were Allegory, Allusion, Satire, and the Hero’s Journey, which was obviously my group. The knowledge of these lenses helped me see the story differently because there are so many hidden details to the book the reader needs to understand the meaning behind before ever seeing. Allusion, Allegory, and Satire all dealt with this, as there were references to other books and pieces of work (including a Beatles song) and slight jokes made against society a lot of people would have had a hard time catching. Examples of this are the ideas Haroun takes from The Wizard of Oz, with recognizable characters Haroun the boy knew from home, and the character of Snooty Buttoo making fun of politicians around the globe. Allusion definitely helped me see the book in a whole new light, as ideas from other books I didn’t know or hadn’t caught while reading it myself helped me have a much deeper understanding of what aspects of the book meant. Also, I think The Hero’s Journey helped put a familiar pattern behind the book, adding a sense of sanity to the craziness that was the plot of Haroun. There are so many details, one cycle really helped me follow the book and predict it like the children’s story it is meant to be.
A favorite annotation I made while reading this last section of the book was when Khattam-Shud gave his reason for why he wanted to destroy stories, as seen where it says, “‘Your world, my world, all worlds,’ came the reply. ‘They are all there to be Ruled. And inside every single story, inside every Stream in the Ocean, there lies a world, story-world, that I cannot Rule at all. And that is the reason why, ‘” (Rushdie 161). I loved this quote because it shows my own personal reason for why I love stories. Stories take me to another world where no one else can touch me and I can truly lose myself, and I thought it was very interesting to know that Khattam-Shud wanted to end stories in any form because of this cognitive freedom.
All in all, I thought Haroun was a heck of a book, with so many different ideas and viewpoints and details that the reader needs to spend a lot of time to decode them all. Everything about the book is deep, and yet it is lighthearted enough that I felt happy while reading it. I loved the description and imagery, and while I have no time for it, I’d still love to draw one of the scenes the book helped me visualize ever so perfectly.