Brick Lane

by

Monica Ali

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on Brick Lane can help.

Animals Symbol Analysis

Animals Symbol Icon

As girls in Gouripur, Nazneen and Hasina grow up surrounded by the beauty of the natural world. Water buffalo laze in ponds; mynah birds swoop overhead. All is wild and untamed. Nazneen confronts a very different reality as an immigrant wife living in a London housing project. There, pigeons circle the grim and barren estate like criminals in a prison yard. Homesick and, at the beginning of her marriage, largely confined to her apartment, Nazneen is like the pigeons: trapped and directionless. Her unhappiness manifests itself in the form of an imagined snake that climbs her shoulder and hisses in her ear, constantly reminding her of isolation and resentment. Hasina is not as disconnected from nature as is Nazneen, but, as a young woman ensconced in a Dhaka slum and at the mercy of her landlord-turned-rapist, Mr. Chowdhury, she writes to Nazneen that she feels unfairly punished and targeted by an angry God who insists on filling the trees overhead with snakes. The snakes represent Nazneen and Hasina’s attempts to come to terms with the disappointments that color their adult lives. Bird imagery, likewise, hints at the elusive nature of home, whether one is an immigrant in a foreign land or a poor servant surrounded by luxury. Tower Hamlets is Nazneen’s prison. Hence, the circling pigeons. While working for Lovely and James, Hasina sees a kingfisher on the roof and tells him to fly away to find water, but he refuses, staying right where he is as if he’s found paradise, just as Hasina remains in her post as a maid, cleaning a house and tending to children that are not her own. Neither Nazneen or Hasina can go home again. Animal imagery implies the wildness of youth in contrast with the essentially hemmed-in nature of adulthood.

Animals Quotes in Brick Lane

The Brick Lane quotes below all refer to the symbol of Animals. 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 7 Quotes

This is what happen and afterward I cry. All the time I thinking my life cursed. God have given me life but he has curse it. He put rocks in my path thorns under feet snakes overhead. Which way I turn any way it is dark. He never light it. If I drink water it turn to mud eat food it poison me. I stretch out my hand it burn and by my side it wither. This is what he plan for me.

Related Characters: Hasina (speaker)
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

Fly way and find some water I tell him. But he do not fly just sit there never stretch the wing and call like as if all his brothers better join there on roof where he find some secret like paradise.

Related Characters: Hasina (speaker), Nazneen
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 277
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 1 Quotes

Silent. Nazneen fell asleep on the sofa. She looked out across jade green

rice fields and swam in the cool dark lake. She walked arm-in-arm to school with Hasina and skipped part of the way and fell and they dusted their knees with their hands. And the mynah birds called from the trees, and the goats fretted by, and the big, sad water buffaloes passed like a funeral. And heaven, which was above, was wide and empty and the land stretched out ahead and she could see to the very end of it, where the earth smudged the sky in a dark blue line.

Related Characters: Nazneen (speaker), Hasina
Related Symbols: Animals
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Brick Lane LitChart as a printable PDF.
Brick Lane PDF

Animals Symbol Timeline in Brick Lane

The timeline below shows where the symbol Animals appears in Brick Lane. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...she sees the estate with clear eyes, noticing the peeling paint on the doors, the pigeons circling in the air like prisoners in an exercise yard, a woman with a screaming... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...and soaks her rain-sodden sari in the bathtub. Curled there, it looks like a pink python. Chanu comes home and begins talking about Hasina’s predicament and how there’s really nothing that... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...Nazneen asks her mother where Hamid goes when he disappears, watching as a flock of ducks obscures the sun. Rupban tells her that if God had wanted them to ask such... (full context)
Chapter 4
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...feels an insidious kind of discontentment slither along her skin. The feeling is like a snake that moves up her shoulders and neck, hissing in her ear. Most of the time,... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...present, Chanu and Nazneen stand outside a large house landscaped with elaborate flagstones and fake animals. When Chanu rings the bell, a plump woman in a tight purple skirt and short... (full context)
Chapter 5
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Chanu and Nazneen settle into Dr. Azad’s garish living room.  Tiger figurines snarl in front of a gas fire place. Velvet curtains cover the windows. Mrs. Azad... (full context)
Chapter 6
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...home soon. Nazneen had sat by Raqib’s cot, calm as a mongoose entranced by a snake, willing her son to get better, and he did. For the first time since moving... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...the medical machines to look after her son (she thinks of them as small, mechanical animals), she and Razia sit in the family waiting room together and talk. Razia is furious... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
...about the rainy season back home, when water buffaloes seemed to grow webbed feet and goats took to roofs to survive and women splashed around, trying to get to the cook... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...trying to deprive herself of desire. To do so was like trying to cure a tapeworm with starvation. To do so was to die. (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...which he drove halal meat to grocery stores, and he was crushed by seventeen frozen cows. Nazneen holds her friend’s hand, and Razia says ruefully that she supposes she can get... (full context)
Chapter 7
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...it sensed she was a beginner and pricked her finger. Now it purrs like a cat. Aleya, one of Hasina’s friends at the factory, says if trees can have spirits, why... (full context)
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
At home, there is more drama. Hussain has bought a few goats and they have an appetite only for Zainab’s washing. Zainab is furious, but Hussain just... (full context)
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Hasina’s chickens have begun to lay eggs. She cooks meals for the jute cutters and they pay... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...does. Now Hasina believes she is cursed. Got has put rocks under her feet and snakes over her head. (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...bed on high stilts so she can stay dry while she works. One of his goats was killed on the railroad tracks and they ate it. They also ate her chickens,... (full context)
Chapter 9
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...angry. To Nazneen, trying to meet everyone’s needs is like walking through a field of snakes. It exhausts her, and she sometimes wonders if maybe she doesn’t love her daughters as... (full context)
Chapter 10
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...her and only comes back in dreams. One night she dreams of Mumtaz and her mynah bird . Rupban tells Mumtaz she is foolish to waste her affection on a bird that... (full context)
Chapter 15
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...and cries if Hasina puts her down. They sit on the verandah together, where a kingfisher calls to his mates to come and join him on the roof, which is nothing... (full context)
Chapter 1
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...face like a frog. Later, while on a walk with her cousins, Nazneen sees a hawk circling above a ruined hut. The hut was damaged by a tornado that recently devastated... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...asleep, dreaming of home, of walking with her sister through the village, surrounded by fields, birds, and water buffaloes. (full context)