Brick Lane

by

Monica Ali

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

As a young bride, Nazneen is initially impressed with the apartment Chanu provides for her, basking in the beauty of the furniture that crowds the rooms. The cabinets and chairs are proof that she has come up in the world. In contrast, when Hasina first sets up house with Malek, they have only a bed, a few cane chairs, and a small chest. Thus it would initially seem that furniture is shorthand for status and, perhaps, even satisfaction in life. As the months and years pass, however, much of Nazneen and Chanu’s furniture falls into disrepair. Fixing the chairs is on Chanu’s to-do list, and Nazneen realizes that it is just one of countless projects he will never finish. Meanwhile, Hasina has moved into James and Lovely’s home where the furnishings are rich, expensive, and always in need of dusting—but their beauty is lost on Hasina because they belong to someone else. Razia, Nazneen’s closest friend in Tower Hamlets, begins her married life in an apartment crammed with furniture handed down from her husband’s white co-workers. Then, when Razia’s son, Tariq, succumbs to heroin addiction, he sells all her furniture. Never one to be defeated, Razia gradually purchases pieces that she loves with money she earns from her own sewing business. Furniture can crowd out a person’s desires, especially if that furniture is not of one’s choosing. On the other hand, because it comes of hard work and independent choice, it is a symbol of home, of roots put down and allowed to flourish.

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

Furniture Symbol Timeline in Brick Lane

The timeline below shows where the symbol Furniture 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
...air like prisoners in an exercise yard, a woman with a screaming baby, men chaining furniture up on the sidewalk in order to sell it. On her way down the stairs,... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Nazneen notices that, the larger she gets, the harder it is to navigate all the furniture in her apartment. She grows and so do the chairs and stools, it seems. Razia... (full context)
Chapter 4
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...give Nazneen a chance to tidy up the apartment, Mrs. Islam says. Nazneen counts the chairs in the room: eleven. It is impossible to tidy up when there is so much... (full context)
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...for the lending library or build the dream house in Dhaka or restore their apartment furniture. At the same time, she realizes that he won’t forget about these projects. He’ll just... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...five pounds, too. Nazneen looks around the apartment. It has become crammed and cluttered with furniture, clothes, toys, food, and a whole host of largely useless items. Nazneen thinks about the... (full context)
Chapter 5
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...face. She awakens to discover that Raqib’s skin is on fire. Nazneen looks around her bedroom. The large, dark wardrobe looms nearby, stuffed now with two more broken chairs. Chanu snores... (full context)
Chapter 6
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen returns to her apartment, appalled by the mess. Everywhere she looks she sees furniture in various states of disrepair, mismatched rugs, open books, and other disorienting clutter. She’d gotten... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen is alone in her apartment. She bathes carefully and then, approaching the dreaded dark wardrobe, pulls a pair of Chanu’s pants out and tries them on, telling herself she isn’t... (full context)
Chapter 7
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...beautiful apartment. She supposes Nazneen has grown used to the lovely corner cabinet and glass showcase and wallpaper, but, to Hasina, these are all unimaginable treasures. She plans to put the... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...and the rains have come. Rain is pouring in Hasina’s apartment and it’s ruined her furniture. A jute cutter, Hussain, says he will fix her table and chair. He is a... (full context)
Chapter 8
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...point of view. It is February 2001, and Chanu is on the floor (he rejects chairs now) teaching Shahana and Bibi, his and Nazneen’s youngest daughter, the poem “My Golden Bengal”... (full context)
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...habit of turning inward. Such moments always end in tantrums and in Shahana kicking the furniture, or her sister. She saves her hardest kicks for her mother. (full context)
Chapter 11
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
...work in their house as a maid. Their house is richly furnished with expensive wooden furniture and a television and video-playing machine. James and Lovely sleep in the master bedroom. The... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Nazneen wakes to a feeling of anticipation. Then she sees the hated wardrobe and Chanu’s pimply arm and she realizes it is a day like any other. She... (full context)
Chapter 15
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...She should have bought plants and nurtured them. She should have sewn covers for the furniture and gotten rid of the hated wardrobe or at least painted it. She should have... (full context)
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...frazzled. When Nazneen asks her what is wrong, Razia responds that Tariq has sold her furniture. (full context)
Chapter 16
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...Shefali in their apartment. The place is bare, stripped clean except for a couple of mattresses and a chair. Nazneen remembers the rooms when Razia’s husband was still alive. After he... (full context)
Chapter 18
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
...her hand, struck by their flimsiness. Her mind runs over all her belongings, all her furniture. Chanu tells her not to worry. He went to Dr. Azad mostly for help with... (full context)
Chapter 20
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 Nazneen’s arms. She invites them to go ahead. Mrs. Islam is... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...departure has arrived. Nazneen drifts around the apartment, her eyes roving over the boxes and furniture labeled either to be shipped, sold, or given away. She plans to tell Chanu of... (full context)
Chapter 21
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...has disappeared, and she has work only thanks to her friend. She sees men moving furniture into what used to be the Bengal Tiger meeting room. Since the riot, officials have... (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
...her and guide her off the bus to a place that smells of fried food, furniture polish, and limes. When they pull the blindfold off, Nazneen sees that they are at... (full context)
Chapter 1
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
Nazneen likewise takes a great deal of satisfaction in her apartment’s fine furnishings. Even though Hamid was the second wealthiest man in their village back home in Pakistan,... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Cultural and Religious Sexism Theme Icon
Assimilation and Immigrant Life Theme Icon
...his corns trimmed again, and what Hasina might be up to. Nazneen goes to her bedroom and stares for a moment at the large wardrobe there. Sometimes she dreams of being... (full context)
Displacement and Dissociation Theme Icon
Luck, Class, and Fate Theme Icon
Nazneen takes a shoebox from the wardrobe and begins rereading a letter from Hasina, who writes of being so happy in her... (full context)