Brick Lane

by

Monica Ali

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Karim Character Analysis

The nephew of the sweatshop owner for whom Nazneen sews, he is a passionate, pro-Islamic activist and the founder of the Bengal Tigers. At the beginning of his affair with Nazneen, he wears jeans and gym shoes. Later, as he becomes more serious about his advocacy efforts, he trades in his Western clothing for the more traditionally Islamic attire of Punjabi pajamas and a skull cap. Nazneen at first admires Karim’s confidence and swagger, loving him for being everything Chanu is not, but gradually she sees that he is just as out of place in the world as she is, and that their love for one another was always based on fantasy. “We made each other up,” she tells him.

Karim Quotes in Brick Lane

The Brick Lane quotes below are all either spoken by Karim or refer to Karim. 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:
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Scribner edition of Brick Lane published in 2003.
Chapter 11 Quotes

It was, Nazneen realized, more complicated than that. Even if Karim was her future, and could not be avoided, there were problems. Happiness, for instance. That would count against her. Because fate must be met with indifference. For the benefit of her angels, she said, “Whichever way, it does not matter.”

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Karim
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

“You think that a clothing is just a clothing. But as a matter of fact, it is not. In a place like this it is a serious thing.”

Related Characters: Arzoo (speaker), Nazneen, Karim
Related Symbols: Clothes and Textiles
Page Number: 314
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

How had she made him? She did not know. She had patched him together, working in the dark. She had made a quilt out of pieces of silk, scraps of velvet, and now that she held it up to the light the stitches showed up large and crude, and they cut across everything.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Karim
Related Symbols: Clothes and Textiles
Page Number: 382
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Brick Lane LitChart as a printable PDF.
Brick Lane PDF

Karim Character Timeline in Brick Lane

The timeline below shows where the character Karim appears in Brick Lane. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 9
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
...middleman shows up, armed with a bale of jeans over one shoulder. This is how Karim comes into her life. (full context)
Chapter 10
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
The first thing Nazneen notices about Karim is that he has a stammer in Bengali. His English is perfectly fine. She also... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
After Karim leaves, Nazneen sees that the leaflets are flimsy, black and white things, stapled down the... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...she is in the arena, sliding across the ice. A man is with her. Like Karim, he wears a gold chain. She takes the vest off. The sequins are cheap. They... (full context)
Chapter 11
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Karim comes to pick up the vests from Nazneen. While he is there his phone rings—a... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...all men. An intense man in immense pajamas and a skull cap welcomes her, and Karim tells her to sit down. The meeting starts with Karim announcing that the matters of... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
A wiry man continues to challenge Karim. Nazneen thinks of him as the Questioner. Karim and the Questioner vie for the position... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Karim comes to Nazneen’s apartment with jeans and unlined dresses. They talk. He tells her about... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...in the shops. Nazneen notices the high-end restaurants and fancy homes nearby and thinks of Karim. He often talks of his father, of his father’s former life as a bus conductor... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...wings around her head until she has to sit down. She remembers the last time Karim came to their apartment. Their shoulders nearly touched. She wonders if he is fated to... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...Tears come to her eyes. She feels like a fool, thinking a young man like Karim would want an older woman like her. She and Chanu begin walking again, and he... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Karim often composes leaflets while Nazneen sews. He is unhappy with what he sees as apathy... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Karim’s main aggravation is not the Lion Hearts and their anti-Muslim leaflets: it is the Questioner... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...Bibi’s way of chewing on her nails. After a time, she lets herself think of Karim, about his well-shaped forearms and the mole on his chin and the certainty with which... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
...realizes it is a day like any other. She is filled with dread and worry. Karim seems to appear before her, the wind blowing his hair. She banishes him and gets... (full context)
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...will end with the death of them all. Nazneen has begun secretly giving money to Karim for the cause. On television, the news is reporting of a riot in a city... (full context)
Chapter 13
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...meeting. Nazneen obliges him, happy that she wore her red and gold sari. She imagines Karim taking the stage and giving a stirring speech, with every word directed at her. For... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
The Questioner admits to writing the leaflet. Karim wants such flyers approved by committee. The Questioner is contemptuous of such bureaucracy in the... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
In his zeal, the Questioner begins to lose ground. More and more people side with Karim, including two girls in burkhas who want to be included in the group’s mission but... (full context)
Chapter 14
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...join them, Nazneen stays with her husband. She thinks of her new love affair with Karim. Her desire for him fills her with a mixture of shame and elation. She knows... (full context)
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...have stopped publishing leaflets of their own, so the Tigers have nothing to respond to. Karim thinks that they have gone underground and that there will be hell to pay. He... (full context)
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...the time now, and she hardly sees him. Nazneen remembers a conversation she had with Karim about the many young users living in the estates. He blames the heroin problem on... (full context)
Chapter 15
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...the silence and darkness, hearing the voices of her daughters and Hasina and Chanu and Karim. When Dr. Azad comes to visit, she finally opens her eyes. He prescribes rest. Chanu,... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...a memory at the corner of her mind. She can’t recall how things ended with Karim, or if they ended at all. She hopes everything will be clearer when he visits... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...Hasina always blames herself for every misfortune. She thinks about how what she did with Karim means she will burn in hell for all eternity. At least that matter is settled. (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
There is a knock at the door and Nazneen knows it is Karim. He comes in with a bale of jeans over one shoulder. They stand for some... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Afterward, in bed, Karim mumbles kindnesses and vows, all of them tainted with his stutter and the idiocy of... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...plan another march and make it a celebration. That way more people will show up. Karim only seems to take the idea seriously when he repeats it aloud, as if he... (full context)
Chapter 16
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...territory. They wanted to tax him on his earnings. Nazneen later confesses to Razia about Karim, but Razia rebuffs her, saying just because she is suffering, Nazneen does not need to... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Nazneen slips into a depression. She stays in bed longer and longer. Now after Karim leaves, she often doesn’t bother to wash the sheets, preferring instead to wrap herself in... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...One day, Razia visits. Tariq has not stopped using drugs. Razia mentions that she saw Karim on the stair. This is the only thing that seems to puncture Nazneen’s depression. Soon,... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...table and asks in confusion where it is all going. He tells Nazneen to ask Karim for a fifty percent raise. Later, while Nazneen brushes her hair, they talk more about... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...that he no longer finds pleasure in food. One day, he comes home to find Karim at his computer. Karim is completely calm. He yawns and tells Chanu that he is... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
The festival everyone had been looking forward to is cancelled. Karim tells Nazneen that the events of September 11 convinced them that now was not the... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Karim changes his style. He trades the jeans and gym shoes for Panjabi pajama and a... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Nazneen is trying to think how she would describe Karim to Hasina in a letter. Karim is on the computer, reading about the September 11... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Karim, meanwhile, has stood up and is pacing the apartment, saying that the official account of... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen vows to tell Karim he can’t pray in her apartment anymore. It is wrong and it has to stop,... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Nazneen tells Karim that Chanu is making plans to move the family home to Dhaka. He does not... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...night, a Lion Hearts leaflet comes through the door, advertising the March Against the Mullahs. Karim is overjoyed. The Bengal Tigers now have a cause. Chanu, on the other hand, gives... (full context)
Chapter 17
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Nazneen sees little of Karim at the moment. He is busy with Bengal Tiger activities and with his spiritual instruction.... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...left with only the ghost of her determination. She vacillates back and forth, torn between Karim and her family. One night, after praying, she finds a Qur’anic verse about two oceans... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Chanu talks less and less, while Karim talks more and more. Karim is energized by the Lion Hearts’ latest leaflet, which claims... (full context)
Chapter 18
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...be very interested in what goes on there. Nazneen wonders if he plans to confront Karim, and she lives in a state of sick anticipation until the night of the meeting... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...Westernized Panjabi pajama. A group of girls in burkas sits in the back. The moment Karim bounds in, the Secretary calls the meeting to order. (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
As usual, it is not very orderly. Karim wants very much to organize a calculated response to the Lion Hearts’ march, but everyone... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...of her eye. His head is bent, and he seems lost in his own misery. Karim, too, is lost. Nazneen sees this now. His crusade against the Lion Hearts is an... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...heroin. Nazneen’s mind is occupied with worry for her daughters, Chanu, and herself—and also for Karim. She decides she will not say goodbye to him. Thoughts of him with another woman,... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen and Razia move to her kitchen. Razia asks Nazneen about Karim. Nazneen tells her that being with him is the difference between watching black-and-white TV and... (full context)
Chapter 20
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...stands her ground. Then Mrs. Islam indirectly threatens to tell Chanu about Nazneen’s affair with Karim, but Nazneen says Chanu already knows everything. (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen is taking the Tube to see Karim. She’d called him earlier, telling him that she had something to say to him that... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen tells Karim that Chanu is leaving for Bangladesh tomorrow, and that she and the girls are staying... (full context)
Chapter 21
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...with a bullhorn. He is trying to talk some sense into the rioting men. Then Karim drags her out of the street and into a safe corner, where he tells her... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...doing some shopping before going home. She thinks about how grateful she is for Razia. Karim has disappeared, and she has work only thanks to her friend. She sees men moving... (full context)