Behind the Beautiful Forevers

Abdul’s Brick Wall Symbol Icon

Abdul’s family, the Husains, have enough money from their garbage trading business to build a brick wall between their shanty and the house next door. While most huts in Annawadi are made up of sheet metal and trash, the Husains are able to make their house a little more permanent by using stable building materials. This represents the slum residents’ desire to establish themselves as legitimate residents of the city of Mumbai, rather than temporary migrants who are just squatting on the land. The brick wall gives the appearance that the Husains have achieved this dream, but it’s not so simple—when Abdul chips into the wall to secure a shelf, he finds that the wall is completely crooked and so poorly constructed that the bricks crumble instead of supporting the shelf. Thus, the brick wall is emblematic not only of dreams, but also of the reality that any time the Husains attempt to improve their situation, the precarious conditions of the slum make it difficult to succeed.

Abdul also sees this crooked wall as a symbol for the “crooked” ethical system of Annawadi. Life in the slum does not reward living on the straight and narrow, as survival involves navigating and participating in corrupt institutions within and around the government. Just as Abdul cannot make a straight shelf on an off-kilter wall, Abdul cannot live by strict definitions of right and wrong when the entire basis of life in Annawadi depends on dishonest and exploitative practices.

Abdul’s Brick Wall Quotes in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The Behind the Beautiful Forevers quotes below all refer to the symbol of Abdul’s Brick Wall. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Behind the Beautiful Forevers published in 2014.
Chapter 6 Quotes

The four-foot gray slab was uneven, as was the floor, so the shelf wobbled perilously on two supports he'd built to hold it up. Nothing in this idiot house was straight. The only way to stabilize the shelf, and make it level, would be to cut into the brick wall, itself uneven, and cement the slab in place…
Abdul was dismayed. The readiness of the bricks to disintegrate, long suspected, was now confirmed. They'd been made with too much sand, and the mortar between them had deteriorated. Crap bricks that weren't even glued to one another-less a wall than a tremulous stack.

Related Characters: Abdul Husain
Related Symbols: Abdul’s Brick Wall
Page Number: 87-88
Explanation and Analysis:
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Abdul’s Brick Wall Symbol Timeline in Behind the Beautiful Forevers

The timeline below shows where the symbol Abdul’s Brick Wall appears in Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: Between Roses
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...Husain family successful (by Annawadian standards). They make enough money to have a real brick wall between their home and One Leg’s shack. (full context)
Chapter 5: Ghost House
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...of living in Vasai. Zehrunisa convinces Karam to pay for a real shelf for their wall to keep the cooking away from rats, a small window, and real tile flooring that... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Hole She Called a Window
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
...prepare for tiles. Karam goes to buy the ceramic tiles while Fatima yells through the wall at the Husains to keep the noise down. Abdul ignores this, focused on making a... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Fatima yells even louder as the wall that her hut shares with the Husains begins to shake. Zehrunisa half-heartedly placates her while... (full context)
Society, Competition, and Social Division Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
Zehrunisa and Fatima each go outside, yelling and shoving each other about the wall. A crowd forms to watch the fight, and Abdul rushes outside to pull his mother... (full context)
Opportunity, Corruption, and Inequality Theme Icon
Permanence, Legacy, and Erasure Theme Icon
...up after finishing the shelf. He is disappointed that the grand plans for improving the wall have turned out so poorly, then shocked to hear his father, Karam, call him to... (full context)