Brick Lane

by

Monica Ali

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Mrs. Islam Character Analysis

A neighbor of Nazneen’s who knows everything about everyone living in Tower Hamlets, and who keeps a seemingly endless supply of handkerchiefs up her sleeves. Later, Nazneen learns from Razia that the handkerchiefs are a holdover from a time when Mrs. Islam and her husband ran a shady business at home in Bangladesh. A ruthless usurer, Mrs. Islam loans people money to help them out of jams but collects far more than they owe in interest. Chanu borrows money from her in order to buy a sewing machine for Nazneen and a computer for himself. Much to Mrs. Islam’s surprise and anger, a newly empowered Nazneen eventually refuses to pay her exorbitant rates, claiming, rightly, that the debt has already long been paid off.

Mrs. Islam Quotes in Brick Lane

The Brick Lane quotes below are all either spoken by Mrs. Islam or refer to Mrs. Islam. 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 3 Quotes

“If you think you are powerless, then you are. Everything is within you, where God put it. If your husband does not do what is required, think what you yourself have left undone.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Islam (speaker), Chanu, Nazneen
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

You can spread your soul over a paddy field, you can whisper to a mango tree, you can feel the earth beneath your toes and know that this is the place, the place where it begins and ends. But what can you tell to a pile of bricks? The bricks will not be moved.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Mohammad Raqib (Ruku) , Mrs. Islam
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

“Mixing with all sorts: Turkish, English, Jewish. All sorts. I am not old-fashioned,” said Mrs. Islam. “I don't wear burkha. I keep purdah in my mind, which is the most important thing. Plus, I have cardigans and anoraks and a scarf for my head. But if you mix with all these people, even if they are good people, you have to give up your culture to accept theirs. That’s how it is.”

Related Characters: Mrs. Islam (speaker), Nazneen, Razia Iqbal, Jorina
Page Number: 16
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Brick Lane LitChart as a printable PDF.
Brick Lane PDF

Mrs. Islam Character Timeline in Brick Lane

The timeline below shows where the character Mrs. Islam appears in Brick Lane. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...She eats at the window, looking out and thinking about the woman who, according to Mrs. Islam , jumped to her death. Nazneen grows convinced it was suicide, and that the woman... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...know. Maybe a baby would explain Hasina’s hasty letter. Razia then does an impression of Mrs. Islam , in which she says the love marriages were not a problem in her day.... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...bedroll with her child. Chanu asks if she’s pregnant, and she tells him she is. Mrs. Islam took her to Dr. Azad and had it confirmed. (full context)
Chapter 3
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...mess up his files whenever she can. One day, in the midst of her mutiny, Mrs. Islam takes her to Dr. Azad’s office. Mrs. Islam offers Nazneen one of the many handkerchiefs... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
The well, according to Mrs. Islam , was not only poisoned. It was also a two-mile walk away. The women in... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
The plan worked. That was how the village got its new well. Mrs. Islam tells Nazneen that she, too, must act in order to get what she wants. If... (full context)
Back in the waiting room, Mrs. Islam appears to be asleep, although her eyes are open. Nazneen wonders if this is how... (full context)
Chapter 4
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam is paying a visit to Nazneen and Raqib, showing Nazneen how to massage the baby... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam tells Nazneen to give Raqib to her; her niece is coming over and loves babies.... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam again tells Nazneen again to give Raqib to her, but Nazneen refuses. She informs Mrs.... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Razia could not care less what the community says, especially since “the community” usually means Mrs. Islam , who, rumor has it, is not the upstanding woman everyone presumed her to be.... (full context)
Chapter 6
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Razia takes advantage of their time alone to tell Nazneen something she has learned about Mrs. Islam . The “respectable” woman is, in fact, a loan shark. Nazneen can’t and won’t believe... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...Raqib’s room is being cleaned. Chanu joins her and they discuss the curious case of Mrs. Islam . Chanu tells Nazneen it is now time for him to be honest with his... (full context)
Chapter 8
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...applying different stitches and experimenting with patterns. One day, while Chanu is out buying groceries, Mrs. Islam drops by. She still carries her big black bag with her. Older now, Mrs. Islam... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam then tells Nazneen to open her bag and put the money in the pocket. Misunderstanding,... (full context)
Chapter 9
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...managing to slap her wrist. The girls go to bed and Nazneen tells him that Mrs. Islam came by for the money. He says he will get it to her next week. (full context)
Chapter 11
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...or he’ll fail his exams. She needs money fast. She is considering borrowing money from Mrs. Islam . Razia does some of Nazneen’s sewing and Nazneen thinks about Hasina and about Hamid’s... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...go home, it is not just Shahana she will have to worry about. They see Mrs. Islam walking toward them and duck away onto a side street. (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...and begins again, thinking she hears someone outside the door. She wonders if it is Mrs. Islam or one of her sons. Chanu did not only borrow that first fifty pounds. In... (full context)
Chapter 14
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam comes for her money the following Monday. Nazneen gives her the fifty pounds she and... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...secrets. She tells her only about the fact that she and Chanu borrowed money from Mrs. Islam . Razia is horrified. She says they’ll be paying off the loan for years. Mrs.... (full context)
Chapter 16
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam comes for her money. Nazneen gives it to her, realizing that everything she has saved... (full context)
Chapter 18
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen runs into Mrs. Islam in the butcher shop. The smell of meat is so thick Nazneen can taste it.... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
When Chanu comes home that night, Nazneen confronts him with Mrs. Islam ’s accusation, and asks him if it is true. He begs her permission to take... (full context)
Chapter 20
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...books are packed. But she is not going. She prepares to pay a visit to Mrs. Islam , but when she opens the door, the old woman is there with her two... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Mrs. Islam ’s sons begin to break things. They shatter the glass showcase. They threaten to break... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
For once in her life, Mrs. Islam is shocked. She gives in, and one of her sons mumbles that Nazneen and Chanu... (full context)
Chapter 21
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...A group of Tower Hamlets women are gathered together in Razia’s apartment. They gossip about Mrs. Islam , who finally seems to be on the verge of death. No doctors can figure... (full context)
Chapter 1
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen goes to answer a knock at the door. Mrs. Islam and Razia Iqbal are there, gossiping about a man whose wife has just committed suicide... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Jorina, in contrast, is a disgrace, according to Mrs. Islam , who prides herself on keeping purdah (the practice adapted by some Muslim women of... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Nazneen cannot imagine Jorina’s predicament. She serves more tea, asking Razia about her children and Mrs. Islam about her arthritic hip, nervous about having the necessary time to prepare the important dinner... (full context)