Book Review: “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri Book Review


The novel “The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri focuses on Ganguli’s, a Bengali family, a young couple, Ashima and Ashoke, who are immigrants to the United States. They feel out of place in the new land that even causes tension and worry in the family. The novel centers it is attention on Gogol, the firstborn to Ashima and Ashoke. Although Gogol, the American-born child, tries to resist his parents’ Indian culture, “he did not want to go home on the weekends, to go with them to pujos and Bengali parties, to remain unquestionably in their world” (126), which makes the family struggle to uphold their Indian culture and to subscribe to the new American culture. Through the novel, Lahiri traces the changes that spark a sequence of recurring interest, social life, and meals all through Ashima, Ashoke, and Gogol’s life. This essay discusses the conflict that arose from different characters and how it affects the story.

Firstly, the name and identity at the beginning of Chapter One sparked a conflict when Ashima calls out for her husband out of the bathroom. She does not make use of the name of his when she needs him since “it’s not the kind of thing Bengali wives do.” Their husbands’ names, according to Indians culture, are very personal and always to be utilized. Also, Gogol finds himself with identity issues. Moreover, Gogol struggles to know his identity, which sparked a conflict between him and his parents. When Lahiri writes, “But for the first time he thinks of that moment not with terror, but with gratitude” (Lahiri 28), it shows that Ashoke doesn’t remember the name of his child. Hence, creating a conflict.

He has not accepted the new identity because he is between two cultures; when had flashbacks of  “being bored and annoyed at having to observe a ritual no one else knew he followed, in honor of people he had seen only a few times in his life and now, ironically, the meatless meal is the only thing that seems to make sense” (180). The identity issue revolves around his name, where he feels that his name can lead to additional issues as he grows up. His choice to change the name to ‘Nikhil’ before joining college stands for his plans to disassociate from his Indian heritage. Later, Gogol turns back to his culture.

Nevertheless, he tries to accept some of the cultural elements that make him marry Moushumi, an additional Bengali, and have a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony. Moreover, in chapter 9, identity emerges while Astrid, Donald, and the party’s visitors explain what to name the child. It is revealed to the visitors nonchalantly by Moushumi that Nikhil wasn’t always called Nikhil. That sparks a conflict where Donald feels betrayed for the information she knew for the people he didn’t love.  The conflicts need to do with providing the youngsters the names of theirs no matter whether they should do intermittent visits to India.

In conclusion, it is impossible to refute that “The Namesake” echos several of Lahiri’s experiences in the plot as it highlights how the conflict arose from identity.  As an Indian immigrant family who struggles to balance two cultures, the Indian culture, and the American culture. These struggles sparked a conflict, which is thematic in the novel. Inside the novel, she reminds the viewer that language, particularly a title, can be robust over a person. It also mirrors how different persons grow in the story to full human life. It’s a commentary on the pressure and expectations that may come from family members. The Namesake is undeniably a coming of age story. Throughout the book, the viewer watches as Gogol grows up (often painfully, often beautifully), enters his personal, and eventually starts accepting and embracing his culture’s roots. It is a lovely story of the benefits of knowing exactly where you came from and how a relationship can help you understand how to relate with family.

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