Brick Lane Chapters 13-15 Summary & Analysis

Monica Ali

Brick Lane

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Brick Lane Chapters 13-15 Summary & Analysis

Chapter 13 Summary

Nazneen chooses a celebratory red-and-gold sari to wear for what will become a momentous day in her life. Inexplicably, she sits down to sew in this regal costume, and as decorative gold chains interfere with her sewing, she fantasizes that changing her clothing will liberate her from the chains of her heritage. When she ventures out to purchase thread, she passes the meeting hall and encounters the secretary, who repeats the mantra: “Get on the train of repentance, sister, before it leaves your station.”  Inside, she comes face to face with the Questioner, who is preoccupied with a pile of papers that he repeatedly “shuffles and straightens.”

Judgment Day has arrived and the ceremony is marked by a musician with “two black tents,” actually a pair of women who formerly wore hijabs and have now upgraded to burkas. In addition, there is a black man in the center of the group representing the sexual priest in a gray felt cap and baggy white robe and naming all the religions he has sampled and then repeating the phrase “loose and lax.” As the hall fills, Nazneen is “dizzy with relief” that she wore her red-and-gold sari while anticipating that her lover will be speaking to the crowd saying words meant just for her ears. There is a commotion as the room grows lighter and Karim enters like a lion, commanding the stage. There, he confronts the Questioner, who has proclaimed jihad, and brings the local debate into a global arena by showing photos of children dying under the sanctions in Iraq.

Nazneen loses track of the debate and focuses on Karim.  She has a revelation that the energy he built up over time in her flat could now be “pulled down here, in the hall.”  This makes her pay rapt attention to gender as the source of their dispute; the Questioner addresses only the brothers, not the sisters, and Karim insists on including the sisters. Demonstrating his leadership abilities by commanding that individual voices in the crowd to be heard, Karim succeeds in diminishing the Questioner’s focus on local radicalism…

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