The Namesake | Study Guide

Jhumpa Lahiri

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Course Hero, "The Namesake Study Guide," April 5, 2019, accessed August 4, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Namesake/.

The Namesake | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

Moushumi and Gogol have dated for a year, and they decide to marry. However, their wedding is not in their hands, and they feel as if they can't take over when their parents have such definite ideas regarding the planning of the wedding. Instead of getting married in New York, they agree to have the wedding in New Jersey, near Moushumi's parents. The wedding is a big Bengali affair, a long ceremony with very little opportunity for the bride and groom to have contact with each other. Moushumi wears a traditional wedding sari and heaps of gold jewelry. Gogol thinks she looks beautiful, but he and Moushumi are both happy to have the ceremony end so that they can spend time alone with each other. However, it feels strange to Gogol that most of the wedding preparations are left over from Moushumi's abandoned wedding to Graham. The newly married couple doesn't get to their hotel room until that night, where they make love and then go through all of the gift envelopes, adding up their wedding money. Gogol tells Moushumi they have made out pretty well, calling her Mrs. Ganguli. Moushumi, however, will always go by Mazoomdar, her own last name, rather than take Gogol's surname.

Moushumi and Gogol rent an apartment in downtown Manhattan and decorate it together. When they move in all of their possessions, Gogol comes across Moushumi's wedding dress from her failed relationship with Graham, and he feels as if he is just a replacement for her real love, the American banker. Moushumi claims she plans to dye the dress and use it later. When Moushumi has to go to Paris to give a talk at the Sorbonne University, Gogol goes with her, as a sort of belated honeymoon. Gogol loves exploring the architecture, but he doesn't participate in Moushumi's work or attend her talk. When she is done, Moushumi and Gogol meet at a café, where Moushumi complains about leaving Paris. Moushumi doesn't want to be a tourist there; she wants to live there someday.

Gogol and Moushumi socialize with Moushumi's friends, but Gogol always feels uncomfortable around them because they are wealthy Brooklyn intellectuals and he has nothing in common with them. Her friends Donald and Astrid had set her up with Graham, and she stayed with them after the breakup. At a party at their apartment, Gogol begins to feel isolated and aggravated by the empty talk around him, and he starts to resent Moushumi for smoking, a habit he doesn't like. Gogol tries helping Donald in the kitchen, but Donald talks about Moushumi's time with them and her depression. At dinner Moushumi tells her friends about Gogol's pet name and his legal change to Nikhil before college. The friends want to know why he is named for Nikolai Gogol, and Gogol quickly ends the conversation by stating how much his father liked the author. However, Gogol is privately furious with Moushumi, because this is personal information he thought she would keep to herself. He begins to think Moushumi doesn't really care about his feelings and is more enamored with her friends than she is with him.

Analysis

The first telltale sign of disaster in Gogol and Moushumi's relationship is that they have no control over their wedding, agreeing to hand it all over to their parents so they don't have to argue with them. However, their unwillingness to advocate for their own desires results in a wedding that is constructed almost completely of leftovers from Moushumi's canceled wedding to Graham. Moushumi has even kept her wedding dress, though she doesn't wear it at the ceremony. It seems to Gogol he is a substitute for Graham, a placeholder Moushumi's parents can approve of.

Moushumi not only keeps her own name, but she keeps Gogol out of her professional life as well. When they go to Paris, she doesn't invite Gogol to her talk. Gogol finds his own fun, based on his love of architecture, but what could have been a honeymoon feels more like a business trip with Gogol tagging along. When Moushumi is angry at the café, she begins to show resentment that her marriage to Gogol is keeping her from living in Paris. Her insistence that Gogol not take a photo of her there because she doesn't want to be a tourist even suggests marital unhappiness.

The party with Moushumi's friends shows asymmetry between her and Gogol. Gogol feels isolated and bored with her friends, and when he finds out about Donald and Astrid's role in Moushumi's relationship with Graham, he feels again like he is just a "back-up" for Graham. Nonetheless, he makes a small attempt to fit in, but Moushumi lets slip the story regarding his name. This very personal, somewhat painful, story is not something he wants her friends to know. He isn't close with them, and he resents Moushumi's decision to tell his secrets to her friends. Her continued smoking also bothers him. Moushumi's unwillingness to respect Gogol as a unique individual lays the groundwork for yet another breakup.

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