This thesis discusses and compares the themes of race, gender and class in Brick Lane by Monica Ali and The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. My main objective is to explore similarities and differences between the three themes, based on a thorough analysis of characters, settings and plots, and to find out how they correspond and how they differ. The themes of race, gender and class are seen through the lens of migration and multiculturalism in a postcolonial setting, which is a prevailing theme in the two novels. Furthermore, my focal point is the question of discrimination and oppression, as these issues are related to all of the three themes. In particular, I am interested in investigating why some people are discriminated against, and how literature represents this discrimination. My emphasis is also on the tense relationship between the East and the West and how the connection between the colonizer and the colonized has influenced this situation. My aim in this thesis is to examine each author’s individual approach to the three themes of race, gender and class and to observe if and how these themes are linked together. I have also attempted to find out how the concept of power influences the three issues differently in the two novels. Well-known literary critics are drawn into the discussion when appropriate, in particular Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Edward W. Said. Also, the work of Homi K. Bhabha, T. Minh-ha Trinh, Toril Moi, David Henry Hwang and Charlotte Brontë have been valuable and helpful when dealing with the various themes.
Chapter 1 discusses the theme of race. The main focus is to analyze the concept of race and ethnicity and to explore how these issues can lead to discrimination. The terrible consequences of racism are examined. However, the question of personal strength and characteristic personal features is also discussed in this connection, as these are important factors that influence how a person reacts towards racism and rejection. The distinction between the East and the West, colonialism and the postcolonial period, prevails throughout.
Chapter 2 deals with gender issues, and the female characters of the two novels are in focus. I have tried to see the relationship between the East and the West in connection with femininity and masculinity. As in the previous chapter, the concept of discrimination and oppression will be debated. This chapter pays attention to what the various characters long for, what possibilities they have and how they struggle towards independence from male power.
My last thematic chapter will discuss the theme of class. The various settings and the hierarchical distinctions between individuals and groups is the focal point. Ali and Desai point out that social differences do not only exist between the East and the West, but within every small unit in society. Both the physical and psychological impacts of class systems are discussed and compared.
To a large extent, the main points of Ali and Desai correspond. They both emphasize the role of the British Empire in South Asia and the difficulties which followed colonialism - both on the universal and the individual level. Based on my discussion and comparison in this thesis, I have found that there are links between the three themes of race, gender and class in Brick Lane and The Inheritance of Loss. My conclusion is that women from the Third World are the most vulnerable, as they often are discriminated against due to their race, their gender and their class. The concept of power is closely linked to all of the three themes.