Brick Lane Themes

Monica Ali

Brick Lane

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Brick Lane Themes


Fate is this novel’s strongest theme. The belief in fate is revealed as integral to the Muslim religion and devout reading of the Qur’an.The narrative opens with the stark reality of Nazneen, who has been conditioned to accept fate, having survived an early sickness on her own without external aid. This act of survival is a metaphor for a life in which her inborn stoicism is challenged by her relationships in her adopted home of England.

Desire and Beauty

These two themes are intertwined. Desire is connected to beauty of natural life cycles and expressed as a yearning to return to one’s native land. Yet, on a deeper level, Brick Lane explores desire as an erotic power fueling personal and collective transformation. This theme is explored through the Hasina and Nazneen’srelationships. Hasina’s beauty makes her an object of desire, and yet she battles this notion of passivity by making her own rules and struggles to be proactive in her own life, even when it means shattering cultural norms of female dependency. In contrast, her lack of exterior beauty simplifies Nazneen’s life’s choices and she has to travel for the erotic experience that gives her more compassion for her sister.

Ultimately, in this novel, beauty and desire are inseparable from the attunement of the body with nature. The narrative paints a vivid picture of how the body contains memories of the connection to the organic world, made literal with the sisters’ rural village upbringing, lost in the Western world of accumulated objects.


The sense of community is strong in this novel. While community is a lifeline for the immigrants, polarization of Muslims arises from their longing for a global community, a unified Muslim people. Yet, the importance of this novel is the way it details how Muslim cultural norms inhibit women from rising to their full potential as equal partners. In its depiction of a woman’s passage through this polarization, a new potential for community is revealed through the physics of “entanglement”. There is a realistic appraisal of how grounded cultural activities integrating women and families are being shunted aside for a politicization mirroring…

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