Brick Lane Symbols and Motifs

Monica Ali

Brick Lane

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Brick Lane Symbols and Motifs

Iron Fist

The first image we encounter in this novel is the iron fist that Rubhan feels in her stomach just before the birth of her daughter, Nazneen. This symbol is the iron hand of fate that will determine the girl’s character through her life experience as an immigrant. When the reader encounters this image in the pregnant woman’s stomach, it is a sign of the hardship ahead for the child. She has to endure the pain of her mother’s sudden and tragic early death and then embark on a journey of separation from her homeland.

The Fallen Woman

This symbol frequently enters the novel both in the literal meaning of a woman falling from her window, and metaphorically, with a woman brought low by her sexual behavior. This is a key symbol evoking multiple characters’ reactions to various fallen women. The key thing distinguishing the sisters is that Hasina courts the fallen state through her unstable life and yet is haunted by the specter of her mother as a woman fallen by the three spears in the storeroom.

Brick Lane

Brick Lane is a symbol of Bengali culture inserted into the urban Western environment, just as bricks are crafted from natural materials. Mythically speaking, this is the border of the known world. Brick Lane is where Bengali culture spills from the shops into the streets. This is a world where the uprooted immigrants can feel at home outside of their residences. Beyond Brick Lane is an alien world of Western capitalism where people are always rushing about. One has to go beyond Brick Lane, as Nazneen does in her first solitary adventure, in order to meet the challenge of the outer world, beyond the security of family and nation.

The Number Three

The number three is a frequent motif in this book. This number reveals the third path that is understood in physics as quantum entanglement, the third path of the unknown place of balance and compromise. The momentum in this direction opposes Rupban’s decision to succumb to the fate of the three swords in death, just as an accused man in the village is…

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