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.”
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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.
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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?
Jhumpa Lahiri wrote The Namesake to express her own feelings on this topic. She is a daughter of Indian immigrants. It seems like her life events served as inspiration for her. She wrote the novel because she wanted to share her struggles and feelings of loneliness and alienation she has felt in both India and the US.
❓ Is The Namesake a true story?
The Namesake is not a true story. However, it is fair to underline that it is based on the author’s life events. Just like the main character of the novel, Jhumpa Lahiri is the child of Bengali immigrants. Moreover, she also felt embarrassed by her nickname and divided between the two cultures. She was looking for her identity.
❓ Why did Ashoke name his son Gogol?
Ashoke named his son Gogol because he adored Nikolai Gogol as an author. Moreover, Gogol’s book literally saved his life. He was reading it when he got into the train accident. Medics found him only thanks to the pages of the book he was throwing. Gogol has become his son’s good name instead of a temporary one.
❓ How does Gogol feel about his name?
Gogol hates his name. When he is 14, he begins to hate it even more, mostly because it is so unusual and weird. Therefore, when he reaches legal age, he changes his name to Nikhil. But the pet name doesn’t stop following him. It lasts until the end of the novel when he finally starts appreciating the past.
❓ What is the theme of The Namesake?
The central theme of The Namesake is searches of one’s true identity. Being lost between the two worlds doesn’t make life easier. The main character tries to pursue the career while adopting the American culture, but his Indian roots keep pulling him back. It lasts until finally, he gives it a shot and tries to enjoy his heritage.
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]
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