Namesake Essay

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The novel, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri provides a story of the Ganguli family, an Indian American family of an educated, middle-class Bengali immigrants. Torn between two cultures and two worlds, the Ganguli's live in Suburban Massachusetts. Ashoke and Ashimi Ganguli have two children, Gogol and Sonia. For Gogol Ganguli, born in Massachusetts, integrating his ethnic cultural background with the American culture presents a crisis of identity. Named after a Russian author, Gogol will become "Nikhil" in an attempt to create an identity that is distinct from his ethnicity and distinctly his own. Most people struggle with finding their identity and go through a series of changes and eventually come to a point where they understand and accept who they are. Gogol Ganguli encounters the same struggle, though his is more apparent than some people's. In The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri argues that naming is often a limiting process by showing how Gogol's effort to rename himself is an effort to resist the confining limitations against his own culture. The story unravels, beginning with Ashoke and Ashimi Ganguli, a Bengali couple living their, or rather Ashoke’s, American dream in Boston. Due to a strange set of circumstances, the couple names their first-born Gogol. Gogol goes through a cycle of accepting his name that is very similar to the cycle of accepting himself. As a child, he does not question who he is because he does not know any different. On his first day of kindergarten, he even insists on being called Gogol rather than Nikhil, his "good" name his parents chose for him. As he is growing up, Gogol begins to question who he is. Throughout the adolescent, he tries to discover his identity and therefore rejecting his name, a part of himself. Before going to college, he legally changes his name to Nikhil, with this new name, Gogol engages in a freedom that is more
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