Final draft.docx - Lim 1 Natalya Lim Professor Miller English 122 17 May 2018 Analysis of the Namesake Jhumpa Lahiris novel The Namesake is an

Final draft.docx - Lim 1 Natalya Lim Professor Miller...

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Lim 1Natalya LimProfessor MillerEnglish 12217 May 2018Analysis of the NamesakeJhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake is an insightful work that explores a variety oftopics, including identity, culture, and love. It follows the lives of Indian immigrants Ashina andAshoke Ganguli in the United States, as well as that of their children, particularly their firstbornGogol. Gogol’s struggle with his cultural heritage and his search for his identity takes up a largepart of the novel, and that conflict is at the heart of the narrative. Lahiri clearly places a greatdeal of importance on names and how they affect our perception of ourselves. The Namesakeserves as a reminder that our personal identity can change over a lifetime, and while it can beshaped by history and past experiences, it is ultimately our own emotions and decisions thatdefine us.The novel starts some time before Gogol is born, showing the tail end of Ashina’spregnancy and her delivery of her son. From the beginning, the themes of cultural shock anddisplacement were obvious; both Ashina and Ashoke reflect on the lives they left behind inCalcutta as they await the birth of their first child. The difference is that Ashoke is far morecontent with America than his wife, who constantly misses her homeland and is stilluncomfortable with the foreign customs of her new country of residence. The issue of namescrops up for the first time in the first chapter, with the couple being forced to name their son lastminute after they fail to receive a letter from Ashina’s grandmother containing the name she
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Lim 2chose, according to tradition. They settle for Gogol, from Russian author Nikolai Gogol, whosebook Ashoke was reading years ago during a near-fatal train accident. Later, Gogol would spendyears struggling with his feelings towards his name, a conflict which would shape much of hislife. The first hint of the aforementioned conflict occurs when Gogol is sent to kindergarten.In accordance with Bengali customs, his parents register him using his “good name”, which is aname used by unfamiliar people or in public as opposed to the “pet name” Gogol which shouldonly be for family and close friends. They decide on Nikhil, but Gogol is unwilling to accept it –in fact, he is “afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesn’t know [and] who doesn’t know him” (62).He does not respond when his father calls him by it at school. The administrator notices and afterAshoke leaves, asks Gogol if he would like to be called Nikhil. When he denies it, she replacesall the official documents without consulting his parents. Ashina and Ashoke are upset by this butreluctantly accept it to avoid a confrontation. Evidently, at this point in his life Gogol does notsee himself as Nikhil – it is entirely foreign to him, and he rejects it. As is typical for a child, he
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