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Representations Of London Life In Brick Lane Cultural Studies Essay

Monica Ali brings humour, grace and the special qualities of the greatest of Asian fiction to a narrative worried about acceptance and denial. . . Wry and intelligent, subtle and graceful in its mixture of formal prose, blackly despairing humour and fabulous characterization, this is a rich human novel'(The Sunday Express, India). Ali had not been born in England however in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and moved to England at age three, where she grew up. She's never lived in Brick lane where the novel was focused on and she was from a middle- class family and eventually attended advanced schooling at Wadham Collage, Oxford. Therefore, some individuals are starting to question how she were able to recreate the lifestyle of the Bangladeshi family residing in the inner city of London. Firstly, she was born in Bangladesh which gave her a feeling of attachment with her origin. Secondly, with the help from Naila Kabeer, whose study of Bangladeshi women garment staff in London and Dhaka, Monica Ali drew inspiration. (Brick Lane, P493). Moreover, her inspiration of the storyplot was supported by many people whose have a strong social identity of Bangladeshi people in London and British immigrant experience. E. g. Nicole Aragi and Shofiur.

"The book follows Nazneen and Hasina, living very different lives in completely different places, but finally daring to hope that they may have found a similar sort of happiness. The themes will be the big ones - identity, self-determination, the freight of family - and they are kept afloat by the buoyancy of Ali's characterisation, which occasionally verges on the Dickensian without ever resorting to caricature. In Nazneen's world, everyone is convincingly governed by their own individual logic. "(Harriet Lane, The Observer Sunday 1 June 2003)

The book exposes many top features of London and its own people's daily life to the reader, which included issues like: Race tension, Cultures, Estate life, gender relation and the landscape of the location of London. However, I am more concentrating on the representation of Race tension and changing cultures in London. In due course, I will link some of these representations with the idea of place and identity (Tim Cresswell), Robert Park and Mumford idea of City and Postcolonial London (John Mcleod).

"Because the end of Second World War, the urban and human geography of London has been irreversibly altered because of patterns of migration from countries with a brief history of colonialism, so that today lots of London 's neighbourhoods are known mainly in conditions of the " overseas" populations they have got nurtured. Whitechapel and Tower Hamlets boast significant Bangladeshi communities. " (John Mcleod)

According to Mcleod, the multicultural London originated during the postcolonial period and people from the ex-colony were flooding in to the "heart" of the Empire -London, searching for a new life and opportunities. The storyline of "Brick Lane" was a primary product of postcolonial London, which is about change, cultural, social, and political and conflict. It was Black and Asian migrants who have together played a major role in creating London's multicultural society and "Brick Lane" highlighted the levels of poverty and discrimination had to them. "In other words, "postcolonial London" does not factually denote confirmed place or mark a stable location on a map. It emerges at the intersection of the concrete and the noumenal, between your material conditions of metropolitan life and the imaginative representations made of it. It is as much something of "facticity" as a creation of the novels. ( John Mcleod) According to Lewis Mumford and Robert Park, city should not only defined by its physical form. Whatever it was which makes a city a city (London), it had more to do with its social processes. (Doreen Massey) Decolonization has speeded up London's heterogeneity, intensity of social interaction and contrasts. In order word, London as a World city is a city produced, experienced and lived imaginatively and also incubating new social relations and cultural forms which conflict with the advocacy of a national culture or the pursuit of cultural nationalism. (John Mcleod)

"With Vast numbers of people living in the town, there are bound to be wide range of variations amongst them. This will bring about the spatial segregation of individuals according to colour, ethnic heritage, economic and social status, tastes and preferences. " (Louis Wirth)

In Brick Lane, Monica Ali portrayed the conflict between Race and culture of the inner city remarkably well. In Chapter two and three, she's centered on describing the culture of London and migrants in conversations between different characters. "Two in one week! However now our kids are copying what they see here, going to the pub, to nightclubs. Or drinking at home in their bedrooms where their parents think they may be perfectly safe. The web our community is not properly educated" said by Dr Azad (P. 31, Chapter two), this short conversation between Chanu and Dr Azad obviously described the challenge of inner city migrants whose never have educated enough to instruct their offspring what is right or wrong, they neglected their children because these were busy working to earn money. Also the second generation migrants are usually copying the drinking culture however, not controlling themselves. In Page 40, Monica uses the eye of the main Character - Nazneen to spell it out the rotten anti social behavior by teenagers in council estate, "She looked into the courtyard. Two boys exchanged mock punches, feinting left and right. Cigarettes burned in their mouths. She opened the window and leaned into the breeze. "(P. 40). She also use the Tattoo Lady who did not get named to spell it out the working class white who lived in council housing and gave them a stereotype features - "She scratched her arms, her shoulders, the accessible portions of her buttocks. She yawned and lit a cigarette. At least two thirds of the flesh on show was covered in ink. Nazneen had never been close enough to decipher the designs. Chanu said the tattoo lady was Hell's Angel. " (P. 18 Chapter one. ) Monica once more uses conversation between characters to provide the message to the reader, "Three point five visitors to one room. That's a council statistic, "Chanu told Nazneen. "All crammed together. They can not stop having children, or they bring total their relatives and pack them in like little fish in a tin. From the Tower Hamlets official statistic: three point five Bangladeshis to one room. " (P. 49 Chapter. 2), "But the main thing is education. The parents are so ashamed they don't really know what to do. Sometimes they send the kid back home, where the really cheap. "(P248 Chapter 12), "We need a couple of things. More drugs counselors and much more jobs for the young people said the physician. "(P249, Chapter 12)About here, she already given enough information for the reader to make own imagination of the rotten down and packed inner city estate area with high density of migrants, working class white, second generation migrants, drug problem and uneducated parents.

"Place is how we make the world meaningful and the way we experience the world. " (Tim Cresswell)

"Place is approximately stopping and resting and becoming involved. While space is amenable to the abstraction of spatial science and monetary rationality, place is amenable to discussions of things such as "value" and belonging". (Tuan 1977, 149)

Place is hard to define but Tuan and Cresswell had done its definition flawlessly well. London is a "Place", even "Brick lane" and "Nazeen's flat" are also a place where everything is interacting with each other. It had been the sense of place that creates the unique social structure of immigrant communities and London. "Nazneen stared at a notice on the wall, printed in five languages. - No smoking, no eating, no drinking". ( P64, Chapter 3) In such a passage, it was "place" which create this original features of Brick lane as it has got all type of foreigners lived in and they are interacting with one another within the same place. Moreover, In Chapter 14, Monica describe the Chanu family haven't left Brick lane or areas around it, although places like the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and Hype-Park are extremely near to Brick Lane. In a sense, she use the family tour day as a Metaphor to describe the immigrant family do not go out their own neighbourhood, a feeling of isolation with other part of metropolis and an extreme sense of localism. Inside the other hand, place had a profound effect on changing people e. g. Chanu (The "educated"), Mrs Azad and second generation migrants (Tariq, bibi and Shahana. ). For instance, Place has turned Chanu to mix into the English culture and eventually accepted it in order to survive in the society- "its part of the culture here. It's so ingrained in the fabric of society. Back Home, if you drink you risk as an outcast. In London, if you don't drink you risk the same things. "( P110, Chapter 5), another example from Mrs Azad through the conversation with Chanu "Listen, when I'm in Bangladesh I placed on a sari and cover my head and all that. But here I go out to work. I use white girls and I am one among them. "(P114, Chapter5) and also when Nazneen refers to Bangladesh as "our country, " Karim helps it be clear that he considers England to be his country in page 212. (Bookrags) and Shahana spoke in English during the conversation with Chanu about internet and technologies. -This little wire that switches into calling socket-do you see it ?- it all comes down the wire. " "We continue the internet at school, "said Shahana, in English. " (P200, Chapter 9)

"Home obviously means greater than a natural of physical setting. Especially, the word cannot be limited to a built place. A useful point of departure for understanding home may be not its material manifestation but instead a thought : home is a unit of space organized mentally and materially to meet a people's real and perceived basic biosocial needs and, beyond the, their higher aesthetic-political aspirations. "

(Tim Cresswell)

There is a connection made between place and second generation migrants, they already regard "London" as the place they "belong" to, whereas Bangladeshi and the language of Bangladeshi (Bengali) are just memory and heritage of their parent. In a way these second generation migrants were trying to make a new kind of social memory and wanting to get out from the bottom of social hierarchy and mix in with the dominant social group within the "place"- London. "Rootedness and authenticity". In Harvey's discussion of place this meaning is retained but becomes a symbol of reactionary exclusivity. As long as place signifies a good and relatively immobile connection between a groups of people and a niche site then it will be constantly implicated in the construction of "us" (people who belong in a location) and "them" (people who do not). " (Tim Cresswell) In this manner the rootedness and authenticity of place will generate tension between different race groups, especially the working class white who are most threaten of these social and employment position to be taken out by the migrants. Therefore, conflict is inevitable. The next 2 extracts described the reason of racial tension perfectly well:

"It's the white underclass, like Wilkie, who are most afraid of people like me. To him, and folks like him, we are the only thing standing in the form of them sliding totally to underneath of the pile. As long as we live below them, then they are above something. If indeed they see us rise they are resentful because we have left our proper place. That is why you find the phenomenon of the National Front. They are able to play on those fears to set-up racial tensions, and give these people a superiority complex. The middle classes are better, and therefore more relaxed. " Chanu said. " (P38, Chapter two).

Leaflet from "Lion Heart" (a white working class organization) - "HANDS OFF OUR BREASTS! The Islamification of your neighbourhood has truly gone too far. A Page 3 calendar and poster have been taken off the walls in our community hall. How a long time before the extremists are putting veils on our women and insulting our daughters for wearing short skirts? Do not tolerate it ! Write to the council! This is England!" (P257 Ch12)

These two extracts allow us to believe how weak of the bond between national majorities and minorities. You can find two main outcomes for migrants; they either become monetary migrant which implies that people enter the country just for the sake of money, making the maximum amount of money as possible before returning. The other outcome is -Hyphenated British which indicates a movement from outsider to insider, from short-term resident to long term settler and from a predominantly homogeneous to an increasingly heterogeneous society. (John Eade) However, the White majorities will be the ones that feel most threaten, afraid of migrants taking right out every one of the available jobs within the town and also their liveable space, culture and social benefits.

Linking back to the introduction, Monica Ali had not been raised in the region of Brick Land and had never experienced a working class family. The novel is completely a work of the imagination influenced by her father's story of Mymensingh countryside and her friend Naila Kabeer who study about the lives of Bangladeshi women garment workers. Although this essay had only centered on the issues of changing culture, place/identity, and race tension, you may still find a lot more issues reflecting London's life and the city of London itself e. g. Gender relations, Landscape of London and financial environment. "This optimism about England as a land of likelihood is linked to a far more general feminist politics of liberation which may help partly explain the book's success in both the UK and the USA. " (John Eade). In conditions of the essay's main theme- Culture, place and race, many conversations with in "Brick Lane" represent the changing of the newcomers and they're becoming one of the key forces of a changing British nation. "Their Britishness is mediated through the social and cultural heritage of their country of origin which produces a hyphenated identity through the interweaving of class, gender, generation, religion and language. " (John Eade) Finally, Monica Ali uses the function of 9/11 as an chance to describe the Bangladeshi or Islamic communities seek to show how their true color is and representation to the outside world, especially the National Majority.

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