Brick Lane, like most of the nineteenth-century bildungsroman narratives that it mimics, is fundamentally a novel about the relationship between an individual and a city and the effects that this relationship has on the construction of self-identification. Unlike nineteenth-century novels, however, Brick Lane is also a story about globalization, about the massive and rapid re-placements of people and cultures that have been and are still occurring in the capitalist world-system. The significance of the city and its place in narratives of personal development is both highly traditional and shockingly new, and the processes and consequences of this new dimension are being negotiated every day. Restricting my reading of the novel to its depiction of Nazneen within the space of London—as well as to critical works on globalization, urban space, and gender—I reveal the complex functions of the global city on personal development in the text and show the ways in which Brick Lane figures the emancipating possibilities of the city vis-à-vis gender identity in light of the presence of both global and local commerce. The global city, I argue, becomes a site of liberation for "Third World" migrant women only insofar as it exists as a site for financial exchange, for working and buying and selling, for the blood and breath of the capitalist economy.


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pp. 145-167
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