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3. In what ways do the material conditions of city life shape and inform the narrative of either Oliver Twist or Brick Lane.

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Introduction

Essay Question on the city 3. In what ways do the material conditions of city life shape and inform the narrative of either Oliver Twist or Brick Lane. Having read both Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens and Brick Lane by Monica Ali, I am going to concentrate the city question on Brick Lane. Brick Lane tells the story of Nazneen, an eighteen year old moved to London from her rural upbringing in Bangladesh to Tower Hamlets, a close tight community of Bengali families living in blocks of flats struggling to make their way up in the city to earn sufficient money and a civilised upbringing for their children, yet still yearning to go back to their home land. Nazneen is married to Chanu, twenty years older than her, he is educated yet earns his money working as a taxi driver. This novel has clear descriptions of city life, the diversity of the people within and how Nazneen interprets the city from her point of view. There are many ways in which the material conditions of the city are described in this novel, the different areas of the city of London are described from the block of flats where Nazneen lives to the big office blocks in the city centre. ...read more.

Middle

On the wall "someone had drawn a pair of buttocks in thick black pen..." this helps the reader to form a picture in their minds of the state of city life where Nazneen lives, "The stairs gave off a tang of urine" Although Nazneen is told to stay within the boundaries of the estate because if she went out people would talk and gossip about her, Nazneen did go out. This was when she got lost, and we as the readers gained more knowledge of the material conditions of city life which formed the narrative, we are told that "to get to the other side of the street without being hit by a car was like walking out in the monsoon and hoping to dodge the raindrops." Immediately we can imagine the fast movement of the city, cars going past like buzzing bees, to cross the road, Nazneen "waited next to a woman and stepped out with her, like a calf with its mother" short descriptions like this form the material conditions of the city life in this novel so skilfully. Throughout the novel, we are not only informed of the material conditions of the city where Nazneen lives or around the area of Bethnal Green, we are also informed of the streets buildings past Brick Lane. ...read more.

Conclusion

The cars that had previously been described as an army now screaming, this clearly shows the rage within Nazneen and the material city conditions which she so hates. Throughout the novel, London is not the only city mentioned, with Nazneen's sister living in the city in Bangladesh, Dhaka, she often receives letters from Hasina talking about her home, and the surroundings "Street is wide and nice. But plastic bag blowing everywhere. Walk in street for five ten minute and by finish you cover in bag on legs and arm and stomach." From this we realise, that city conditions throughout the world are the same. The little things which give the city its status, the material conditions such as bags on the floor is what makes living in a city so different to other places. "A wind blew in over the courtyard and fetched up a crisp packet at her feet." Nazneen although she was in a different country to her sister, they were both in the same situation, both living in a city with material conditions such as rubbish on the pavements and non stopping people. To conclude, the material conditions of city life in Brick Lane are mentioned with such metaphors and descriptions which inform the narrative of the surroundings, the people, the scenery and the atmosphere within. The buildings described in so many ways, the smallest details found on the floors to the stairwells of the block of flats. ...read more.

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