The Namesake

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The film I have chosen is “The Namesake” by Jhumpra Lahiri. A traditional Bengali Indian family, the Ganguli’s, are moving to New England and are trying to stay engulfed in their unique cultural identity. Ashoke Ganguli brings his new wife, Ashima, to a strange new world, leaving her lonely and confused of a culture outside of her own. Ashima needs to learn to love a man she does not know, to customize herself to a country she is unfamiliar with, and to hold true to her values in a culture foreign to her traditional beliefs. In this paper I will inform the reader of the Family structure, social class on gender as well as material culture and nonmaterial culture pertaining to the Ganguli’s and how they made a place in American society. I will also show you two different sides to view this movie from, Symbolic interactionist and how it relates to this movies identity as well as the Functionalist perspective and its objectivity (Cherlin 03) on material impacting this story. Family Structure

Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli, have an arranged marriage. An arranged marriage is one set up by either parents or grandparents, to benefit the families. Arranged marriages are to be performed usually out of necessity and not out of love, “in many societies throughout the world today, people marry out of obligation to parents, and family” (Murstein 1974, pg. 47). This can be seen as an Institutional marriage. Romantic love based on emotions was seen as risky and not practical (notes M/F), Ashima comes from an upper class Bengali family. We can assume this because of her knowledge in singing, music, and poetry. Ashima recites poetry by Robert Frost for Ashoke and his family. Ashima’s family believes that Ashoke is a suitable husband for their daughter and by marrying him she will have access to whole new world. Ashoke’s family is an upper middle class family. We can assume this by their wealth of knowledge as well as that their son is training in New York City for his PhD.

Gogol (Nick) and Gina spend a large amount of time at one another’s places without his parents knowledge. Gogol has to lie to his mother about the relationship, knowing she would not approve. He is told once by an auntie. “To have fun with American woman, but always marry a Bengali” (The Namesake). This relationship does not work out for Gogol. The reasoning behind this relationship ending is the cultural differences.

Nick (Gogol) marries the traditional Bengali woman, Oshme that his mother so hoped for. Oshme, is intelligent, well rounded and seems to be what he is looking for. Oshme had other hopes and dreams. Ashme overhears her talking on the phone to which she thinks is another man. Oshme is engaging in an extramarital affair. When Nick discovers the affair, Oshme states “Maybe it’s not enough that we are both Bengali.” Nick replies “That’s not why I loved you” (The Namesake). Divorce in this case took place because of a cultural change. A cultural change in an Individualized marriage focused on romantic love, role fulfillment to self fulfillment (M/F Notes 10/20/11). Nick and Oshme marry to satisfy their parents but also because Nick believes he is “In Love.” Oshme marries only to satisfy her relations.

Social construction on gender
Traditional femininity is being displayed and defined by Ashima. Ashima displays appropriate femininity in several ways. First upon introduction to Ashook she shows intellect and diversity by reciting a poem by Robert Frost in English. Though Ashima has aspiring dreams of becoming a singer, these dreams are not seen as socially acceptable in regard to her family. Ashima is brought up where conformity of woman is believed to be enforced. Ashima has to put her dreams on hold to achieve the status of wife and mother. She marries the man who her family has chosen to be the best suitor. Ashima has to incorporate her cultural differences with the culture her husband has adapted with. Ashima before meeting Ashoke walks into her...
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