The Namesake Essay

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The Quest to Define a Name in The Namesake In her novel The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri reveals that a person’s name does not define his or her identity. Lahiri suggests through protagonist Gogol Gangulis life that experiences and culture form the real core of who a person is. Gogol’s begins his life as the victim of the accidental disruption of the Ganguli family traditional naming process. This disruption saddles him with a confusing name that does not match either the Bengali or American cultures he lives in. The consequence of Gogol’s confusion results in a life spent with an unclear self image and the inability to identify with either culture. Lahiri uses the story of Gogol’s life to imply bicultural people may feel torn between two worlds. Gogol chooses to mask his cultural heritage and to create his own identity. His choice leads him to painful conclusions, that a person cannot change the components that form his or her identity and that multiple conflicting versions of self can be the result of trying to do so. Lahiri uses Gogol’s unique name to illustrate the confusing struggle he and possibly other bicultural people face while trying to fit in. Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, Gogol’s immigrant parents living in the United States, choose to give the honor of naming their baby to Ashima’s grandmother who lives in India. After sharing the news of Ashima’s pregnancy with their respective families, the couple must wait for the letter containing the baby’s name to arrive. Yet on the day of Gogol’s birth the letter has not arrived. In the United States babies must be named before they leave the hospital so a birth certificate can be processed. This fact forces the Gangulis to abandon their family tradition and hastily choose a name for their son before leaving the hospital. Ashoke names their son after the Russian author Nikolai Gogol. A name is often selected

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