Essay on Assimilation, Misidentification, And Cultural Restoration

Essay on Assimilation, Misidentification, And Cultural Restoration

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Assimilation, Misidentification, and Cultural Restoration
“I don’t get it. Why did you have to give me a pet name in the first place? What’s the point?”
“It’s our way, Gogol,” his mother maintained. “It’s what Bengalis do.”
“But it’s not even a Bengali name… How could you guys name me after someone so strange? No one takes me seriously[.]”
[… The] only person who didn’t take Gogol seriously… who tormented him, the only person chronically aware of and afflicted by the embarrassment of his name, the only person who constantly questioned it and wished it were otherwise, was Gogol. (99-100)

Without people in the world to call him Gogol, no matter how long he himself lives, Gogol Ganguli will, once and for all, vanish from the lips of loved ones, and so, cease to exist. Yet the thought of this eventual demise provides him no sense of victory, no solace. It provides no solace at all…
Gogol gets up, shuts the door to his room, muffling the noise of the party that swells below him… He sits cross-legged on the bed. He opens the book. (289)

In The Namesake, Jumhpa Lahiri explores the idea that assimilating into another culture is much easier than trying to connect with a foreign culture, and uses Gogol’s name change to represent Gogol’s shift in cultural identity. As a child, Gogol rejected his name because he felt that it was a reason for people to alienate him. When speaking to his parents about changing his name, Gogol asks, “Why did you have to give me a pet name in the first place?... No one takes me seriously” (100). Gogol’s question shows that he believes that his name, originally meant to be a good name, is reason for people for people to ridicule him. Gogol does not understand the cultural value behind his name and fears the pos...

... middle of paper ...

...zing that the loss of his family– the one source of culture that he had available to him while growing up– will result in the loss of his cultural identity. He is seen trying to grasp the last bit of his family history, trying to learn everything possible about his background, in order to make up for his lack of attention and value as a young child. It is unfortunate to me that Gogol rejected his culture in the first place, however the American culture is one that is so heavily forced upon today’s children that it is impossible and unreasonable to expect a young child to stand strong against the forces of cultural assimilation, and I sympathize with Gogol as we are now both left in positions where our culture is made unavailable to us; where we can sometimes find ourselves frantically turning pages of books in order to gain the knowledge which we should already know.

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