The Namesake Theme Of Identity

1448 Words6 Pages
The question of identity can be universally translated, always seeming like a difficult one to answer, especially for those who are culturally dislodged, growing up in two worlds simultaneously, just as immigrants are forced to do. There exists external components of identity which are bestowed upon people; cultural classifications such as race, religion and gender, as well as societal characterizations such as one’s family, career, and title. Many people use these labels and external definitions to describe or define themselves, however, there is much value in going beyond these external descriptors to recognize one’s complete and true identity. In the novel The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, the author thoroughly examines the theme of identity from many angles, raising questions in the reader’s mind. Lahiri never explicitly answers these questions, but instead depicts identity as a unique and fluid sense of self. This realization of oneself may not always be instantly satisfying, however, it is continuous in development, forever creating new branches of identity to explore upon. In regards to Bengali culture and the maturation of Gogol’s identity, Lahiri makes the most significant and persistent aspect of identity to be his name, and in the end, shows that reinventing himself by changing his name does not satisfy his hope of shutting out the past embodied by the name Gogol, because as Gogol eventually comes to realize, the creation of “a new person” cannot be derived from the actions he takes in order to please others. Although it doesn’t occur until near the end of the novel, Gogol awakens this “new person” through the choices he makes for himself, rather than in hopes of receiving approval from others. Throughout the novel, Go... ... middle of paper ... ...teresting part of The Namesake is the ending. The novel’s progression doesn’t make a full circle, but more of U-Turn, as Gogol realizes that he has always held the power to be who he wanted. A clear awareness of how he had been perceived in the social world, combined with his self awareness would establish salient characteristics, creating Gogol’s true identity, There was no need to envy other Americans, no need to push himself away from his family and culture, and at this point, the reader can only pity Gogol. When Gogol is 26 and his father passes away, he realizes that “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 no sense of victory, no solace. It provides no solace at all” (289).
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