Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri – Literary Analysis Paper

In The Namesake, it is apparent that Jhumpa Lahiri intended to make Gogol the narrative’s focal point due to the unique circumstances that surrounded him. In essence, he is a Bengali born in the United States and doesn’t realize the gravity of his heritage until he reaches his teens. He soon grapples with his identity, especially when he realizes that his name is rather odd for a Bengali. Unlike Ashima, Gogol is in constant motion throughout his life traveling to new cities and homes. Gogol’s warped view of who he is and what he represents mostly has to do with the fact that he moves further away from Pemberton Road and is away from his family for an extended period. The story would lack all the integral aspects if it were told from Sonia’s perspective primarily because she had accepted her Bengali culture and was not in any state of conflict. Gogol, on the other hand, is in search of his version of freedom and strives to keep away from his family which he saw as being quite traditional. Fitting into the mainstream American society seems to be his primary concern and opines that this move will enable him to deal with the challenges he had been facing.

Education is pivotal to the novel’s plot and all of its main characters. Ashika and Ashoke had come to the United States in search of a better life. The only way this was going to happen was through attaining the highest levels of education. It was the primary reason why they were living the “American Dream” since they had both graduated from Ivy League universities and therefore able to seek gainful employment in elite careers.  The general expectation was that Gogol and his sister would also follow this path and achieve academic excellence that would allow them to be sufficient; independent in the United States. Moreover, the use of multiple protagonists enables the author to introduce different perspectives from the characters which are vital in developing the plot. Gogol, for instance, serves as the hero in the story, driving it through the troubled relationship that he shares with his name.  Ashima acts a subtle heroine and represents life in a foreign land and efforts geared towards adapting. Similarly, Ashoke lands in the United States where he has to make a name for himself and provide for his young family by whatever means. The use of multiple protagonists, therefore, paints a complete picture of the family’s experience in the United States while presenting their perspectives.

Nostalgia plays a vital role in Gogol’s life and how he views the world around him. He remembers all those moments when his family would come to see him off. Being a close-knit family, all members had to be present, memories that Gogol still relishes: “his father would always stand on the platform until the train was out of sight” (Lahiri). His nostalgia heightens as soon as he commences with his marriage to Moushumi as the couple increasingly grows distant from each other. He is remembered with nostalgia how the two would spend their afternoons together when they were dating and how he would assist her to decorate the Christmas tree. Insecurity plagues Gogol, as is evident in his attempt to change his name to Nikhil. He is confident using his new name and even views it as a positive attribute in his life but is still haunted by “Gogol.”  He might have inherited these insecurities from his parents who were always wary of this new land and even had to move five times throughout the country.

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