A work of magic realism and post-colonial fiction, Midnight's Children examines the after effects of India's independence from Britain through its narrator, Saleem Sinai. Saleem was born at the exact same time that the country became independent. He and other children born at the time of independence have special powers, particularly those born closest to the midnight hour. Saleem's life closely parallels the struggles of India as an independent country and the struggle between himself as an individual and as an representation of his country is what ultimately destroys him.
The technique of magical realism finds liberal expression throughout the novel and is crucial to constructing the parallel to the country's history. The story moves in different parts of Indian Subcontinent– from Kashmir to Agra and then to Bombay (now, Mumbai), Lahore, Dhaka.
Nicholas Stewart in his essay, "Magic realism in relation to the post-colonial and Midnight's Children," argues that the "narrative framework of Midnight's Children consists of a tale– comprising his life story – which Saleem Sinai recounts orally to his wife-to-be Padma. This self-referential narrative (within a single paragraph Saleem refers to himself in the first person: ″And I, wishing upon myself the curse of Nadir Khan." and the third: "'I tell you,' Saleem cried, 'it is true. ...'") recalls indigenous Indian culture, particularly the similarly orally recounted Arabian Nights .
The events in Salman Rushdie's text also parallel the magical nature of the narratives recounted in Arabian Nights (consider the attempt to electrocute Saleem at the latrine (p. 353), or his journey in the 'basket of invisibility' (p. 383))." He also notes that, "the narrative comprises and compresses Indian cultural history. 'Once upon a time,' Saleem muses, 'there were Radha and Krishna, and Rama and Sita, and Laila and Majnun; also (because we are not unaffected by the West) Romeo and Juliet, and Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn," (259).
Stewart (citing Hutcheon) suggests that Midnight's Children chronologically entwines characters from both India and the West, "with post-colonial Indian history to examine both the effect of these indigenous and non-indigenous cultures on the Indian mind and in the light of Indian independence."