Review of the Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

In The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri I personally disliked the book ending, but it was a realistic idea of how life can be in the aspect of another in a daily basis. Personally I found the ending to be a bit bitter sweet when he was left three times by different women by the end of the book. In short summary, this book started off with Ashima and her arranged loveless marriage with Ashoke.

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They set off in their arranged marriage and started their new life in America. Ashima was unhappy about leaving her life in Calcutta, but they made the most of it.

Assimilation began with the name of their first born baby boy. Ashimas family tradition had been that their grandmother would choose a name for their child and send over what that name was. Unfortunately in this unruly turn of events Ashoke and Ashima must name their baby before they leave the hospital. They start the process of American culture and becoming naturalized citizens of a country totally new to them. They then name their son after the author that saved Ashoke’s life from the car crash “Gogol.” In their culture it is odd to formally write down a child’s informal name opposed to their formal name. This was the namesake given to Gogol that slowly burdens him in his years of maturity and discovering his own identity. It takes him numerous years to try and find a sort of peace or belonging within himself to become his ideal idea of the dashing american man he aspires to become one day. In days passing it seemed as if all Gogol thought was important to prioritize his relationships with women, and finding independence over family. As I neared the end of the book I realized that there is a fine line between family and finding his own independence. As time proceeds on after his father’s death, Gogol finds the story that had save his father’s life.

In my own opinion I thought that he did deserve to be mad at his parents, especially his dad for having him deal with the struggle of identity crisis unaware of what to call himself. He seemed to have no sense of stability, but at the same time his parents could not really help the situation because of the elementary teachers incompetence of Ashima and Ashoke’s cultural traditions. This brings us back to the idea of cultural assimilation, and also discrimination of the Indian culture. Later on in the book when Gogol’s mom and dad meet other Bengali families that have assimilated to the culture of America, because of tedious things. Like the names for their kids, and explaining to their child’s teachers how to differentiate among their formal and pet names. Other ways of living for the Ganguli were also diminished. Ashima feared of drinking alcohol instead of fresh tea out of the pot. Ashima feared for her children to grow up and forget about their own tradition.

The temptations in their new home was extremely difficult not to want to give into. I don’t think that Ashima should have parented the way she had though, because although her kids had separate interests she did not seem to bother about them. The cause of constant distance between Gogol and his parents created more tensions added on to ones already made from the lack of really getting to know their child. A big problem with this was the fact that Gogol was express his own beliefs in this culture that he had been raised off of. In my opinion the way that Ashoke and Ashima had brought it upon him to do something more stable for a career took him to another way of living. A path of living that evolved him into making decisions based on his knowledge without the help of his parents. It made him pretty successful when he pursued his career in Architecture, but the flaw in this case was his mental sense of knowing if he belonged or not.

The message that I have received from this book was that you should pursue what you think is best, but also consider the other consequences that come with the responsibility. Gogol knew that when he had gotten involved with Maxine in the middle of the story, that she wanted him to be something other than himself. For example, in the story Maxine states, “I should have come with you…(Lahiri 2003:177),” but after that with no sincerity she becomes impatient and tells Gogol “For God’s sake, get out of there. Check into a hotel (Lahiri 2003:177).” after visiting his father’s apartment complex after he had died. She never once had offered his parents to come and she had seemed to like it that way.

I would believe that Gogol would have some idea of who she is, but is blinded by the idea of loving her. For example, in personal experience before, I know what it’s like to be in love with the idea of being in love, but I continue on to find a love that is mentally and physically rewarding on a deeper level to the point where you are open enough to not be afraid to show the person something of your past or present. To be able to open wholefully and have total trust, having it being not with not just a significant other, but any type of relationship. Another example, would be intimacy with another being, and to be able to spread your beliefs or create new memories in life. I love my friends and my family, but the reason why I believe the story was bittersweet was because Gogol had some warning signals that could have possibly changed his path to better himself, and maybe love himself a little better rather than always resorting to blaming it on his name. He kept avoiding the part of himself that he had accepted when he had been a kid. In the good old days when Gogol was just starting school, he had wanted nothing more than to be Gogol. After innocence is lost he finds that he wants nothing to do with it just because he wanted girls to like him more.

His sense of identity is not clearly defined with all if the choices that had let up to the ending when he truly has matured, and brought it upon himself to read The Overcoat story that had saved his father’s life. What Ethnic Studies has helped me to do while reading this book has helped me grasp a deeper understanding and perspective of how identity is not prescribed to an individual, but is obtained over a lifetime that is never next to perfect. People in this world no matter the race religion, or ethnicity are all the same. From what we have learned in class so far, I would have to say that I would not like race to be real. I wish that everyone could just get along in this world without all the stereotypical judgements, misconceptions, prejudice, and racism. We all have to play parts in correcting our own faults. The Namesake has taught me that like Gogol I admit now to myself that I probably have made some bad mistakes as he has, but I will still learn to push through and live on my life. By reading this book and seeing and listening to your lectures, above the surface we like to believe that happy fairy tail story or american dream, but in reality I believe that these ideologies are what has shaped society to be the way its has come to be today. Under the surface we all know racism is still out there. We are just too afraid to admit it to ourselves, because like Golgol we all want to live the American dream that isn’t really there.

From the beginning of the story Gogol had been somewhat ashamed of who he was, but if he had words of encouragement from someone close this would cause a chain reaction around the world. Paying it forward, thinking about giving back to your communities rather than tweeting about the latest news in the media or acting on something that’s important aside from reacting and not doing anything about it. Now that I reflect on her work I would say that Jhumpa Lahiri did a really really great job in identifying issues that challenge everyone in their day-to-day lives. It helped me think critically about the world and also myself and how flaws are a given, the way you deal with them is what really matters in the end.

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