The Namesake: Summary of the Book
Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake tells us about the life of two generations of immigrants from India. Gogol was born in the US to his Indian parents, who have moved there from Bengali. From the very beginning of his life, Gogol has hated his name. Initially, it was given to him as temporary. His main desire is to escape from this humiliating “pet name.”
Before going to Yale, Gogol changes his name to Nikhil. Later, after finishing his studies, he moves to New York. There he meets Maxine and falls in love with her. But he can’t enjoy spending a lovely time with her and her parents. He has to rush back home to his family when his dad dies.
After a failed arranged marriage with a Bengali girl, Moushmi, he spends the last Christmas at their family house with his mother and sister. Now, when no one calls him Gogol, he feels the urge to reconnect with the past.
Gogol as The Namesake’s Main Character
After reading The Namesake’s summary, it may be hard to feel all the internal struggles Gogol has been through. However, the whole novel concentrates on his long journey in search of his identity.
Due to some issues with the mail, Gogol’s parents, Ashoke and Ashima, have never received the blessings from the grandmother. So they had to come up with the name quickly. Ashoke was saved in the accident thanks to Nikolai Gogol’s book he was reading. Therefore, it became his son’s name.
Trying to leave his “pet name” behind, Gogol changes his name. As Nikhil, he finds some peace, building a good relationship with Maxine in the US. However, his past doesn’t want to be abandoned. Due to his father’s death, Nikhil goes back to his family.
He was growing up as a rebel against Indian culture. It has become one of his character traits. However, he agrees on the arranged marriage. His parents are missing their big family from India and all the traditions. Unlike them, Nikhil feels like an outsider there. The idea of home and culture is one of the main ones.
Just before his mother leaves for India, they celebrate their last Christmas in the house that is about to be sold. At this moment, Nikhil realizes that in his storm of life events and accidents, their family connection has been the only steady thing.
The Role of Maxine in The Namesake
The theme of love and relationship is highlighted as one of the most important ones in this essay. Jhumpa Lahiri does a great job, including different characters as guides on Gogol’s path.
Moushmi teaches him a lesson about their cultures. However, the role of Maxine shouldn’t be underestimated either.
In The Namesake, Maxine Ratliff may be seen as a representation of freedom. When Gogol comes to live with her in her parents’ house, he feels away from his family issues. She is very proud of her ancestors. The whole experience feels so different for Gogol. But at the end of the day, it is their families that drive them apart.
Maxine kind of takes Gogol away from his family. He realizes it when his father dies, and he finds himself on the other side of the world from India. Eventually, it becomes the reason why they break up. Maxine shows him how valuable family connection is.
To sum up, this novel is a marvelous adventure of Indian immigrants’ son. He has to go through numerous challenges in his life to come closer to his true identity finally.
The Namesake underlines the cultural issues of immigrant families. Jhumpa Lahiri shows their struggles to protect the traditions with precision. This division between the two cultures seems to have split Gogol’s identity.
He spends most of his life struggling to get rid of his nickname. But deep inside, he has been willing to open up towards his culture. At the end of the novel, when everything calms down, he decides to give a chance to his past.
All the relationship issues Gogol has overcome have been leading him towards his true identity. His parents have been trying to help him. However, it has only caused him to become more rebellious. Gogol is meant to go on this path by himself.
The Namesake FAQ
❓ Why did Jhumpa Lahiri write The Namesake?
❓ Is The Namesake a true story?
❓ Why did Ashoke name his son Gogol?
❓ How does Gogol feel about his name?
❓ What is the theme of The Namesake?
NEA. n.d. The Namesake. [online]
Myerson, J., 2004. Review: The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri. [online] the Guardian.
Libguides.manchestercc.edu. 2018. Libguides: The Namesake: A Novel By Jhumpa Lahiri: Home. [online]
The Independent. 2004. The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri. [online]
Dawes, T., 2007. The Namesake: A Struggle For Identity. [online] Nsuworks.nova.edu.
Lehigh.edu. 2004. Amardeep Singh: The Nameless: Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake. [online]