Brick Lane

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‘Portrayal of women in literature is heavily influenced by the social and cultural views of its context, but it is the author’s view that matters most’ Through close analysis of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, one is able to see the various ways women are represented in literature, showing that both social and cultural views of its context, as well as the author’s own view are equally important in crafting an ingenious storyline. In this novel, Ali focuses on several Bengali women as they embark on a journey of self discovery. Ali portrays them as suppressed by their patriarchal culture, by their religion, as well as being resilient fighters against injustice. At times, Ali conforms to Bengali cultural views, however, at others, they are challenged, giving women a voice of their own, and proving that it is the author’s view that matters the most in a successful piece of literature. Monica Ali conforms to socio-cultural conventions of Bengali culture as she represents women being suppressed under a patriarchal culture. Bengali women are expected to live strictly under the dictates of social expectation, working to uphold gender roles and achieving fulfilment only as devoted mothers and wives – they are completely inferior to men. This suppression is clear from the beginning of the play when Chanu uses cumulative listing to describe the protagonist Nazneen as ‘Not tall, not short, around five foot two. Hips are wide enough to bear children’ to show the control men have over women and hence their limited choice in marriage. Nazneen’s inner scepticism, when she has been forced into a marriage without consent, can be seen again in the rhetorical question ‘Why did her father marry her off to this man?’. Monica Ali also uses simile in ‘clawed the silk away as if it were strangling her’, to emphasise the suppressing and confining nature of Bengali culture symbolised by the clothing, as well as Nazneen’s frustration in her act of ‘clawing’ the silk away. Furthermore, cumulative...
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