Rushdie’s collection of short stories seems to send something to the reader that previous stories lack: a challenge. His stories are humorous, yes, and they express unique opinions about the postcolonial situation of the Indian region, but to the reader a choice is offered in every story, the point of which is to cause one to form one’s own opinions on home and what makes a home valuable.
In East, West, each story offers its own different dilemma. “Good Advice” addresses the issue of immigration, a subject of obvious importance to the author who was forced to emigrate, never given the option to stay. While clearly condemning the seemingly irrational desire to emigrate, one must ponder the irony of the situation: for Rushdie, forced exile from his home has clearly shaped him as a person and given him experiences which have formed him to be the writer and man he is today. While this was forced on him, as the saying goes he played the hand he was dealt in life as best he could. “Advice” frowns on those who would abandon the good things of their homeland for the intangible “promise” of a better life in a rich, Western world, but the reader must take into consideration the idea that perhaps home is something one chooses for oneself rather than a place one is born. Rushdie could have easily chosen to attempt to live on in the Indian region underground, yet he adapted to his situation and followed the direction life chose to guide him in.
Following this dilemma is “The Free Radio” which also presents the reader with a confusing choice: was the young man successful in pursuing his dreams? Was the old man cynical to the very end, refusing to accept the success of a hopeful dreamer, or was he correct to condemn the delusions of a fool? Forcing the reader to choose between various outcomes tricks the reader into pondering the consequences of having faith in a seemingly hopeless situation. From this another irony is introduced: should one simply accept the way things are and roll with the punches, or fight against them and chase after a higher ideal? Rushdie seems to imply in this ambiguous ending that both are possible and that the line between hope and delusion is a blurry one indeed.
Truly a reader is challenged by the anthology presented by Rushdie in the sense that each story, while representing a certain fictional situation, is very plausible and illustrates a general point applicable to all: home and what one makes of it is never a black-and-white matter, with all manner of implications in every way one chooses to make of their situation in life.