The Sea of Stories is a novel published by Salman Rushdie a year after the issuance of fatwah against him. It is a fictional story that illustrates the war between speech and silence. Cultmaster Khattam-Shud represents an evil man, a ruler of Chupwalas whose aim is to rule the kingdom of Kahani and earth. The Guppees love speech, whereas the Chupwalas, who hate speech, are silent fellows. The Guppees and the Chupwalas are involved in the war at the ocean to liberate it from Cultmaster Khattam-Shud, whose aim is to poison the sea’s source of stories while at the same time instilling fear in the Chupwalas. The essay below analyzes Cultmaster Khattam-Shud as a symbol of bureaucracy, a critique of bureaucracy, and the specific danger that bureaucracy poses to a good society. The conclusion of the essay provides a summary of the below discussion.
Analysis of Bureaucracy in Salman Rushdie’s Novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Bureaucracy is a form of administration whereby agencies operate as institutions Inside a governmental or non-governmental structure. The goal of bureaucracy is to ensure equality and jurisdiction within the organization. Bureaucracy has four features: expertise and separation of roles, hierarchy structure of accountability and authority, legally put down records and impersonality. Regarding Salman Rushdie’s novel, there are pros and cons of democracy. Bureaucracy may confuse the decision to make in unforeseen circumstances. The discussion below analyzes bureaucracy in Salman Rushdie’s Novel, Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
In the novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Cultmaster Khattam-Shud symbolizes bureaucracy. There are cons associated with bureaucracy. Some of them are inflexible rules and regulations, impersonality in that there is reduced concern for a person’s interest, and aims displacement, whereby the original goals of an organization displace the inferior aims. Ideally, concepts and processes in a bureaucratic organization are well-understood rules and exercised in a way that at no time is controlled by interpersonal associations or political treaties. In contrast, at many times, bureaucratic organizations fail to achieve this.
Bureaucracy tends to be dehumanizing at times. Because interpersonal relations are not encouraged in a bureaucracy, there is a build-up of negative emotions among juniors. Decision-making is solely the role of seniors who do not consult their subordinates. The subordinates, in return, feel left, yet some decisions interfere with how they work. There is no empathy for juniors since it is an expectation to follow the rules without questioning the decisions made. For example, Cultmaster Khattam-Shud has no sympathy for the Chupwalas and goes ahead to curtail their freedom of expression by poisoning the ocean’s source of new stories so that he can continue being in power.
Bureaucracy has specific features such as filtering information released to subordinates by seniors. Cultmaster Khattam-Shud curtails freedom of expression when ruling the Chupwalas. He does not allow them to narrate stories but ensures that he poisons the ocean’s source of stories. He instils fear in the Chupwalas so that he can be the only source of authority regarding decision-making by ensuring that they don’t narrate existing stories or create new ones. He knows that if the Chupwalas are enlightened, they may use the information to overturn his rule.
There is an arguable relationship between the Guppees and the Chupwalas. The sea of stories represents the war between the Guppees and the Chupwalas in that the former represents speech while the Chupwalas represent silence. Haroun noted differences in behaviors between the Guppees and the Chupwalas. The Cultmaster Khattam-Shud represents the Chupwalas. “It was a war between love (of the Ocean, or the Princess) and Death (which was what Cultmaster Khattam-Shud had in mind for the Ocean, and for the Princess, too)”, (Krishnan, 1995, p.70).
The novel’s specific critique of bureaucracy is in the misuse of power by Cultmaster Khattam-Shud, Ayatollah Khomeini, who issued the fatwah, and the politicians. The issuance of fatwah against Rushdie indicates how stories and language are instruments utilized to apply, maintain or weaken power. The novel suggests that language is authority and that the person in charge of language can exercise control over others. For example, there are times when politicians have a high demand for Krishnan to narrate his stories at their rallies to win the votes in their favour. “You will tell happy stories, praising stories, and the people will believe you, and be happy, and vote for me” (Krishnan,1995, p.69).
Krishnan describes Cultmaster Khattam-Shud as the Arch-Enemy of every single one of the stories. He fights speech and favours silence so that he can continue being in power on earth and in Kahani. He succeeds in doing this by separating himself from his shadow, making it possible for him to go to two places simultaneously. He also poisons stories in the sea and blocks the origin of new narratives. The Chupwalas under his command cannot question his authority and have no freedom of expression, including telling stories. Cultmaster Khattam-Shud is a representation of danger in free speech.
One specific danger that bureaucracy poses to a good society is that it curtails freedom of expression, which confuses decision-making in unexpected situations. Cultmaster Khattam-Shud demonstrates his authority by inculcating fear into the Chupwalas and, at the same time, restricting their speech constantly. “As Rashid explains to his son Haroun, “Khattam-Shud is the Arch-Enemy of all stories, even of Language itself” (Krishnan, 1995, p.68). The elites in bureaucratic organizations dominate information to assist in the control of their authority.
Politician Mr Buttoo censures the information that Rashid narrates during his political rallies. The information he is allowed to pass makes the politician shine to his potential voters. His rivals threaten him when the politician corrupts the author’s storytelling skills. They also make it known that they would weaken his power of storytelling. The reason is that they felt he was working towards the downfall of others, intending to get fame. The ambiguity of Rashid in his narrations during campaigns indicates how the power of politicians quickly degrades the freedom of speech.
The reason there is the curtailment of freedom of expression is that other power structures commonly corrupt bureaucracy. As a result, there are experiences in grapevine information and frequent changes in organizational systems. In bureaucratic organizations, free speech is minimum. Opposers of a ruling class are vulnerable to harassment, demotion, or expulsion. The elites do not allow freedom of speech among their juniors since it threatens the survival of the bureaucratic organization. Information control also aims to mask bad decisions or embarrassing deeds.
The Chupwalas are not able to defeat the Guppees at war. This is because of the disorganization, distrust among themselves, and limited communication on how best to conduct the defence. On the other hand, the Guppees are well organized, communicate effectively, and trust each other hence able to win the war. The habit of Chupwalas being silent contributed to their loss at war due to betrayal among themselves. The Guppees’ stability and effective communication are why they won the battle. The freedom of speech bestowed on the Guppees encouraged closer ties and a better understanding of how to tackle the war.
In conclusion, the effect of bureaucracy features in the novel Haroun and the sea of stories. There is a tendency to curtail freedom of expression by those in power, considering the case whereby politicians use Rashid to narrate his stories during campaigns to win votes and Cultmaster Khattam-Shud misusing power by poisoning the ocean’s source of new accounts. Those are ruled tend to develop opposition to their oppressors and react to overthrow them. From the analysis of the novel, it is clear that bureaucracies aim at curtailing freedom of expression to their juniors so that they can maintain being in power.
Krishnan, R. S. (1995). Telling of the Tale: Text, Context, and Narrative Act in Rushdie’s Haroun and the Sea of Stories. International Fiction Review.