It can easily be seen that the story of Haroun (or Haroun's story?) is not just another stab at children's literature, but rather an introspective piece written by an avant garde trying to deal with all the issues he sees on his plate. The universality of the story, and the rampant use of archetypal literary references, both lead to the conclusion that there lies more to the story of Salman Rushdie's Haroun and the Sea of Stories than the cover would lend to believe. It would be difficult to try and clarify the meaning of this book - the author's meaning - but the superficial nature of its story certainly puts it in a category of post-modernist writing. Rushdie has painted a picture of social agenda utilizing the literary tools of fiction, fantasy, allegory, and a dash of imagination to bring us an example of modern-day metafiction.
Trying to put things in context, and indeed trying to figure out a root cause, requires a look at historical references as well as an understanding of the literary genre at hand. Salman Rushdie was so privileged as to receive a fatwa from the fundamentalist Islamic world because of his writing just a few years before the publication of Haroun and the Sea of Stories. The infamous Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran announced "[to] the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death." This forced Salman Rushdie into hiding to avoid his otherwise inevitable death, and with the help of the British government he was able to navigate through the storm and survive through the natural death of the Ayatollah. He is certainly less candid in these recent years, but at the time of his publishing Haroun and the Sea of Stories in November of 1991, he was still under the foreboding shadow of the Iranian fatwa.