The Namesake

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Cultural traditions, migration, family and identity are issues which emerge throughout the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. How have various literary techniques been used to show that these issues play a major role in an individual experiencing a sense of belonging or not belonging.

It is evident that a number of issues can greatly affect a person’s sense of belonging in particular personal experiences and cultural background. Throughout Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake a number of these issues emerge and have been presented to play a major role in an individual discovering their true identity while concurrently experiencing a sense of belonging or not belonging. A range of various literary techniques including intertextuality, motifs and juxtaposition have been utilised throughout the novel to illustrate the factors that influence a person’s sense of belonging and in some cases a person’s sense of isolation.

The reference to the short story The Overcoat written by Ashoke’s favourite author Nikolai Gogol has been used as both a motif and a form of intertextuality throughout the novel. The Overcoat is first mentioned in chapter one when Ashoke recalls his near death experience in a train accident. It is believed that because Ashoke was clutching the pages of The Overcoat in his hand that he was found among the wreckage of the train and ‘reborn’. This personal experience played an important role in shaping Ashoke’s identity which in turn allowed him to develop a great sense of adventure which enabled him to travel to a land far away from his own and be ‘Born twice in India and once in America’. It can also be suggested that this personal experience influenced Ashoke’s ability to experience a strong sense of belonging wherever he goes.

The Overcoat is again mentioned numerous times throughout the novel mainly in relation to Gogol Ganguli’s personal sense of belonging. Gogol’s namesake is in fact Nikolai Gogol and it was the short story which had...
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