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.
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.
...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)
...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)
...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)
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)
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)
...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)
...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)
...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)
...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)