Essay about The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri

Essay about The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri

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In Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake, the protagonist, Gogol, struggles with his cultural identity. He is an American-born Bengali struggling to define himself. He wants to fit into the typical American-lifestyle, a lifestyle his parents do not understand. This causes him tension through his adolescence and adult life, he has trouble finding a balance between America and Bengali culture. This is exemplified with his romantic relationships. These relationships directly reflect where he is in his life, what he is going through and his relationship with his parents. Each woman indicates a particular moment in time where he is trying to figure out his cultural identity. Ruth represents an initial break away from Bengali culture; Maxine represents a complete separation from it; Moushumi represents a balance between both American and Bengali culture.
With his first relationship, Gogol takes his first steps towards a permanent estrangement between him and his culture. Gogol’s first significant relationship is with Ruth, who is the same year as him at Yale. With this relationship, Gogol pursues what he thinks a first love should be. Ruth is American, confident and seems to have no qualms with her childhood. Gogol feels self-conscious telling his own stories. “When he describes his own upbringing, it feels bland by comparison” (Lahiri 111). At this point in his life Gogol sees his past as shameful, his parents are embarrassments to him. He is drawn to Ruth and how she connects him with the world. Together they fulfill every movie cliche, going to parties together, eating food and sharing childhood stories. Yet with Ruth there are still some significant similarities, showing that this is only the beginning of Gogol’s quest to separa...


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...he’d met Astrid” (247). Moushumi, like Ruth, has ambitions that she cannot fulfill in a relationship with Gogol. He learns that a shared culture does not make two people compatible. They eventually get a divorce and Gogol is once again single.
Throughout Gogol’s romantic relationships, he has finally come to peace with who he is. Lahiri’s choice to end the novel with Gogol as a divorced man reading alone in his childhood room is symbolic. It shows that despite the large emphasis on Gogol’s relationships that what he really needs, at the end of the day, is to accept himself. He has learned what he is not through Ruth and Maxine. He even learned that having a childhood in common with someone does not necessarily mean that they are compatible. All of his lovers had led him back home one last time, finally able to find a balance between American and Bengali cultures.

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