Brick Lane

by

Monica Ali

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

Because Brick Lane is a story of two sisters separated by great distance, mentions of blood in the text often refer to the ties that bind family together and the misunderstandings and mundane tragedies that just as often keep them apart. When Nazneen slices her finger while chopping onions in her Tower Hamlets apartment, she immediately thinks of Hasina, because they are, in common parlance, blood relations. Nazneen, cut off from her family and the place of her birth, craves human connection, and more specifically, the easy, mutual understanding of people who have a shared past. What she finds at first is instead the bloodless, blank face of the tattoo woman across the courtyard. Later, while Nazneen performs her wifely duties, i.e. trimming Chanu’s corns, Chanu yelps in pain, worried she has drawn blood. He is mistaken, though, and this lack of blood hints at the lack of passion in their marriage. In contrast, during a particularly rough love making session, Nazneen bites the ear of her young lover, Karim, and blood drips from the wound, suggesting that Nazneen’s connection with him is stronger and more essential to her growth as a woman than her relationship with Chanu. In the end, though, Nazneen sees that Karim is lost and his pro-Islam activism empty, disruptive rather than productive. His pro-Muslim group, the Bengal Tigers, riots in Brick Lane, and to Nazneen it is as if “all the mixed-blood vitality of the street had been drained. Something coursed down the artery like a bubble in the bloodstream.” Blood represents what’s real and lasting, and, in this novel about family, that is the bond between Nazneen and Hasina. 

Get the entire Brick Lane LitChart as a printable PDF.
Brick Lane PDF

Blood Symbol Timeline in Brick Lane

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood appears in Brick Lane. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...Chanu claiming that the peasants are drawn more to the land than to their own blood. Dr. Azad admits he’s thought about returning, but that something always gets in the way. (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...Dalloway. At one point, Nazneen cuts him too closely and he thinks she has drawn blood. They get into bed, and Chanu is soon snoring. While he sleeps, Nazneen studies his... (full context)
Chapter 4
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...traits Chanu attributes to his grandmother’s cousin but that Nazneen considers proof of the baby’s blood relation to Hasina. Chanu calls the boy “Ruku,” but his real name is Mohammad Raqib.... (full context)
Chapter 5
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...strangely still in a straight-backed chair, squeezing the arms as if he hopes to draw blood from them. Nazneen supposes he comes to her house for dinner to escape his uncouth... (full context)
Chapter 15
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
...and end up in the bedroom, making love roughly. She bites his ear and draws blood. She wants everything all at once: to disappear, but mostly for Chanu to come in... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...lingers, telling her that things with the Bengal Tigers have died out. They need new blood. They’d planned a march against the Lion Hearts, but the Lion Hearts canceled everything because... (full context)
Chapter 21
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...owners and restaurant workers. It is as if the street’s veins had been drained of blood. She sees a group of boys rocking a police car back and forth. They are... (full context)
Chapter 1
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...haste, cuts her finger. While she runs cold water over the gash to stop the bleeding, she wonders what Hasina is doing now. It is not a new thought. She misses... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
The cut on Nazneen’s finger eventually stops bleeding, but she finds herself wondering how long it would take her to empty her finger... (full context)