Brick Lane
Goodreads ratings
3.42 / 5

"Brick Lane" Characters Analysis

By Monica Ali

fiction | 512 pages | Published in 2008

BY THE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF LOVE MARRIAGE SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE THE SUNDAY TIMES and NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER A RICHARD AND JUDY PICK 'Written with a wisdom and skill that few authors attain in a lifetime' SUNDAY TIMES Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed older man. Away from her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London's East End. Nazneen knows not a word of English, and is forced to depend on her husband. Confined in her tiny flat, Nazneen sews furiously for a living, shut away with her buttons and linings - until the radical Karim steps unexpectedly into her life. On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen finally to take control of her fate. A GRANTA BEST OF BRITISH YOUNG NOVELIST SHORTLISTED FOR THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD 'A brilliant evocation of sensuality' DAILY TELEGRAPH 'A novel that will last' GUARDIAN 'Highly evolved and accomplished' OBSERVER Reader's love for BRICK LANE: 'Memorable and gripping' ***** 'The kind of book that changes your perception of the world' ***** 'This has become a classic and i can see why'***** 'Funny, sharp and very touching' *****


Estimated read time: 6 min read

List of Characters

No.Character Name
5Dr. Azad

Role Identification

In Monica Ali's novel "Brick Lane," several characters play significant roles in shaping the narrative and exploring various themes. These characters include Nazneen, Chanu, Karim, Hasina, and Dr. Azad. Each character serves a distinct purpose, contributing to the overarching story and the development of the protagonist, Nazneen.

Character Descriptions

Nazneen: The main protagonist of the novel, Nazneen, is a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London after an arranged marriage with Chanu. She is initially portrayed as passive and unambitious, devoting herself to her family and household chores. However, as the story progresses, Nazneen begins to question her identity and choices, ultimately finding her voice and independence.

Chanu: Nazneen's husband, Chanu, is an educated man with ambitious dreams of success in England. He is portrayed as arrogant and self-absorbed, often dissatisfied with his life and blaming others for his failures. Despite his flaws, Chanu's character serves as a crucial catalyst for Nazneen's personal growth and transformation.

Karim: Karim is a charismatic young man who becomes Nazneen's love interest. He is passionate about political activism and advocating for the rights of Bangladeshi immigrants. Karim introduces Nazneen to a world beyond her confined existence, encouraging her to explore her desires and aspirations.

Hasina: Nazneen's younger sister, Hasina, plays a pivotal role in the narrative through a series of letters she exchanges with Nazneen. Hasina's character offers a contrasting perspective, depicting the challenges faced by women in Bangladesh and their struggle for autonomy. Her letters serve as a source of inspiration for Nazneen, pushing her to question her own path.

Dr. Azad: Dr. Azad is a benevolent and kind-hearted doctor who cares for the community in which Nazneen lives. He serves as a mentor figure for Nazneen, offering guidance and support throughout her personal journey. Dr. Azad represents the potential for positive change and the possibility of finding solace and purpose within one's community.

Character Traits

NazneenIntroverted, submissive, introspective
ChanuAmbitious, self-righteous, discontented
KarimCharismatic, passionate, idealistic
HasinaBrave, resilient, independent
Dr. AzadCompassionate, wise, mentor-like figure

Character Background

Nazneen: Nazneen grew up in a small village in Bangladesh and came to London as a young bride. Her upbringing instilled in her a sense of duty and obedience, which she adheres to throughout the early stages of the novel. However, as Nazneen becomes exposed to the realities of her new life, she begins to question the choices made for her and desires something more meaningful.

Chanu: Chanu is a highly educated man who had hopes of achieving success in England. He comes from a lower-middle-class background and faces numerous struggles as an immigrant. His aspiration for recognition and success drives him, but his inability to achieve his goals leads to frustration and disillusionment.

Karim: Karim is a second-generation Bangladeshi immigrant who has grown up in London. He is deeply involved in political activism, fighting for the rights of his community. Karim's experiences as an immigrant shape his worldview, fueling his motivation to bring about change.

Hasina: Hasina remains in Bangladesh throughout the novel, and her character is revealed through the letters she shares with Nazneen. She faces hardship and abuse, ultimately challenging societal norms to escape an oppressive environment. Hasina's bravery inspires Nazneen to view her own circumstances with a fresh perspective.

Dr. Azad: Dr. Azad is an established member of the community, providing medical support to immigrants in the area. He has experienced the challenges faced by immigrants firsthand and uses his wisdom and compassion to guide and support individuals like Nazneen.

Character Arcs

Nazneen: Throughout the novel, Nazneen undergoes a significant character arc, transforming from a submissive and passive individual to a woman who questions societal norms and seeks her own path. She finds the strength to challenge the expectations placed upon her and embraces her independence and desires.

Chanu: Chanu's character arc is marked by disillusionment and self-reflection. Initially driven by his ambitions, he eventually realizes the limitations of his dreams, leading to a reevaluation of his priorities and acceptance of his circumstances.

Karim: Karim's character arc highlights his growth from an idealistic activist to a more pragmatic individual. As he becomes involved with Nazneen, he begins to understand the complexities of personal relationships and the compromise required to effect change.

Hasina: Hasina's character arc, portrayed through her letters, focuses on her resilience and determination to create a better life for herself. Her story highlights the resilience of women facing adversity and the strength needed to defy societal expectations.

Dr. Azad: Dr. Azad serves as a steady and consistent character, providing guidance and support to Nazneen throughout her journey. His character does not undergo a drastic arc but instead remains a moral compass for the protagonist.


  • Nazneen and Chanu: Nazneen's relationship with her husband Chanu is marked by tension and dissatisfaction. Initially, their marriage is based on duty rather than love, and Chanu's unfulfilled dreams only exacerbate their struggles. However, over time, their relationship evolves, and they develop a deeper understanding and acceptance of one another.
  • Nazneen and Karim: Nazneen's connection with Karim provides a romantic escape from her mundane life. Their relationship allows her to explore her desires and embrace her independence. However, it also presents a moral dilemma as she grapples with her commitments to her family and cultural expectations.
  • Nazneen and Hasina: The bond between Nazneen and her sister Hasina is portrayed through the exchange of heartfelt letters. Hasina's letters serve as a source of inspiration and motivation for Nazneen, pushing her to question societal norms and empowering her to reclaim her identity.
  • Nazneen and Dr. Azad: Dr. Azad becomes a mentor figure for Nazneen, offering guidance and support. Their relationship highlights the importance of community and connection, as Dr. Azad helps Nazneen navigate the challenges she faces and find a sense of purpose and belonging.

In conclusion, the characters in "Brick Lane" undergo various transformations and navigate complex relationships, ultimately showcasing themes of self-discovery, cultural identity, and female empowerment. Each character contributes to the narrative's exploration of these themes, making "Brick Lane" a compelling and thought-provoking novel.