Brick Lane

Brick Lane Summary and Analysis of Chapters 14-16


With his mind focused on returning to Bangladesh, Chanu takes his family on a tour of the famous landmarks of London. Nazneen pretends to have a good time, but cannot stop thinking about Karim. The two of them are now having an ongoing affair, and Nazneen feels both intense shame and deep happiness.

The Bengal Tigers group is losing momentum, which worries Karim.

Mrs. Islam has also started to visit the flat to ask Nazneen for the money she is owed. She wavers between forceful and self-pitying in these conversations, telling Nazneen that her husband and sons have both disappointed her.

Meanwhile, Nazneen is starting to have suspicions about Razia's son Tariq. Karim has told her that many young men on the housing estate are using heroin, and Razia has confided that her son seems to have a constant need for money and is absent for long periods of time. Nazneen is tempted to tell her friend about her affair, but instead she confides that Chanu has borrowed money from Mrs. Islam to finance the sewing machine, and is now being harassed to pay back even more than they owe. As Chanu becomes more confident in his plan, he tells Shahana that the family will be returning to Bangladesh.

Realizing the full extent of her betrayal, Nazneen has a vision of her mother, and collapses. Chanu lovingly nurses his wife back to health after her breakdown. Nazneen is anxious about whether or not her secret will be revealed, but is too weak to do anything.

While recovering, Nazneen receives a letter from Hasina. Hasina still enjoys her work, although she sometimes longs for a family of her own. Hasina also shares the story of her friend Monju who is hospitalized after her husband and sister-in-law attack her with acid.

In August, Karim comes to visit Nazneen again, and the two of them sleep together. Karim is unaware of her illness, and has been away visiting family in another town. Karim also calls another meeting, hoping to reinvigorate the Bengal Tigers movement. Nazneen attends along with her whole family.

Nazneen is distracted from her own problems when Razia's son Tariq steals and sells all the furniture, making it clear that he has a drug habit he needs to support. Nazneen and Razia go to seek advice from Dr. Azad. Nazneen is frustrated and confused about the fact that she continues her affair, even though she knows it is destructive.

Personal matters are overshadowed by the events of September 11, which triggers anti-Muslim sentiment in the neighborhood. Chanu becomes increasingly desperate for money, so that the family can leave England. Watching him, Nazneen realizes that, for the first time, Chanu is actually going to follow through on one of his schemes. Unable to control her feelings for Karim, she tells her lover that her husband is going to move the family back to Bangladesh. Karim suggests she stay behind, get divorced, and remarry him.


In this section of the novel, various crises and secrets risk bubbling to the surface. Mrs. Islam has been a presence in Nazneen's life since she first came to England as a young bride. At first, the older woman seemed to represent a type of maternal surrogate who could help and support Nazneen. However, it quickly became clear that Mrs. Islam had a domineering and controlling side which forced Nazneen to try and limit the relationship. However, the small and constricted nature of the Bengali community means that Nazneen cannot be entirely free of Mrs. Islam.

Moreover, by now, it is clear that Chanu has intertwined his family with Mrs. Islam by borrowing money from her. This activity is controversial because charging interest on loans is typically prohibited under Islamic law. Nonetheless, Nazneen is now at the mercy of Mrs. Islam's demands for repayment. Although Nazneen is suspicious that they have already paid more than they ever owed, Chanu's financial incompetence makes it impossible for her to know what is really happening.

In contrast with Nazneen's lack of control over her husband's financial choices, Razia is typically presented as a shrewd businesswoman. She has successfully been able to work and take care of her children. However, her naivety is revealed as the hints become increasingly clear that her son Tariq may be using drugs. Nazneen is able to detect these clues because of what she has learned from Karim, showing to what extent her horizons have been expanded. Razia, however, is blinded by her love for her children, and her hopes for their future. She cannot accept Tariq's addiction until the evidence is glaring.

Tariq's addiction to drugs parallels Nazneen's destructive and obsessive relationship with Karim. In an insular community, the risk of her relationship being revealed is high, but she pursues it anyways. Nazneen even fantasizes about Chanu finding out and punishing her. Nazneen's tendency to be passive and submissive creates a bizarre dynamic in the context of her affair. She seems to view the affair as something inevitable and over which she has no control. Rather than a display of agency, or an attempt to grasp at happiness, Nazneen sees the relationship as something else she must submit to. This strange perspective reflects the extent to which Nazneen is disassociated from her own desires. She cannot claim her own hopes and longings, and has to see them as something external and happening to her.

Despite the attempt at submission, Nazneen is clearly both guilt-ridden and out of control. Faced with the growing awareness that for once, Chanu is actually going to execute a plan, Nazneen has to consider what it would mean to return to Dhaka and leave Karim behind. This realization is so horrifying to her that it triggers a sort of collapse. Nazneen's breakdown seems to mirror experiences from her childhood in which her mother would become unwell and display mental disturbances. This connection is heightened by Nazneen's vision of her mother urging her to accept and submit. However, in this vision, Amma appears as a kind of demonic presence, suggesting that Nazneen is afraid of what she will become if she surrenders all agency over her life.