Gerald and Lydia go to their lake house in New Hampshire for the summer, so Gogol and
11 Maxine have the mansion to themselves. He spends all his time there when he is not at work, losing touch with his parents and never visiting them. His mother calls to ask him to visit them to see his father off before he leaves to spend nine months at a university outside Cleveland, but the most Gogol will do is stop in for lunch with Maxine on their way to her parents' lake house in New Hampshire. At lunch, his parents are reserved but polite. At the Ratliff's lake house, Gogol and Maxine spend the days relaxing on the beach with Lydia, Gerald, and Maxine's grandparents, Edith and Hank, who have a summer house on the same lake. Gogol celebrates his 27th birthday there, with all the Ratliff's friends who don't know him well. He feels isolated from his parents and from his old life, and he likes the feeling. Analysis The tension between Bengali culture and American culture is revealed in Ashoke's words to Gogol when Gogol tells him he wishes to change his name: "In America anything is possible. Do as you wish." He is resigned to the fact that his son is an American. When they find out about Gogol's relationship with Ruth, Ashima and Ashoke point out examples of failed marriages between Bengali men and American women. Maxine's parents, Gerald and Lydia, interact in a way that emphasizes to Gogol the difference between Bengali and American marriages: they openly kiss and cuddle, whereas Ashima and Ashoke never share intimate moments in public. The importance of name and identity is clear in Chapter 5 when Gogol changes his name legally to Nikhil. At first, the name change is confusing because everyone who knows him still calls him Gogol. However, when he goes to Yale, nobody knows him as Gogol
12 and he can become Nikhil. It takes a while for him to really feel like Nikhil, since it is not just a new name but represents a new identity. As Nikhil, it's easier for Gogol to separate himself from his parents. They represent his old life when he understood his identity as Gogol; now he is Nikhil and he can ignore them without feel responsible. He does not tell them about his relationship with Ruth at first, since "he has no patience for their surprise, their nervousness, their quiet disappointment, their questions about what Ruth's parents did and whether or not the relationship was serious." Once he moves to New York to work as an architect, he stops visiting his parents so much. "He prefers New York, a place which his parents do not know well, whose beauty they are blind to, which they fear." His mother tries to get in touch with him by calling him, and he ignores her calls. The tension between life and death comes to the forefront when Ashoke finally tells Gogol about the train accident that made him decide to name his son after the Russian author whose book he was reading at the time. Gogol is upset and asks his father if he reminds him of that night he almost died. His father says, "Not at all... you remind me of everything that followed." His son represents new life to him, the new life that followed
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- Fall '14
- The Red and the Black, Kolkata, Nikolai Gogol, gogol