by Jhumpa Lahiri
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eNotes: Table of Contents
1. The Namesake: Introduction 2. The Namesake: Jhumpa Lahiri Biography 3. The Namesake: Summary 4. The Namesake: List of Characters 5. The Namesake: Setting 6. The Namesake: Summary and Analysis ♦ Chapters 1-2 Summary and Analysis: 1968 ♦ Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis: 1971 ♦ Chapters 4-5 Summary and Analysis: 1982 ♦ Chapters 6-9 Summary and Analysis: 1994 ♦ Chapters 10-11 Summary and Analysis: 1999 ♦ Chapter 12 Summary and Analysis: 2000 7. The Namesake: Literary Qualities 8. The Namesake: Themes 9. The Namesake: Historical Context 10. The Namesake: Critical Overview 11. The Namesake: Character Analysis 12. The Namesake: Media Adaptations 13. The Namesake: Bibliography
The Namesake: Introduction
The Ganguli family in Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake has a problem. The mother and father are traditional Bengalese from Calcutta, and they are not particularly interested in assimilating into the United States, their adopted home. Gogol, their son, however, was born in the United States and is somewhat embarrassed by his parents Bengalese practices. Gogol is also uncomfortable with his name. It is neither a Bengalese nor an American name. No one he knows has a name like his. In school, kids make fun of it. But the conflict goes deeper than that.
Gogol's father tries to explain why he gave that name to his first-born child, but Gogol could not care less. Gogol, in his attempts to get out from under the Bengali culture, even tries to completely disassociate himself from his family. But when his father dies, Gogol is surprised by how much he misses him. Slowly he turns back to his mother and sister. His new closeness makes Gogol's American girlfriend question why he is acting so differently. The strain breaks down their relationship. Later, when Gogol's mother suggests that Gogol call the Bengalese daughter of her friend, Gogol resists, for a little while. Then he gives in, somewhat curious about dating a Bengalese woman. As Gogol slowly realizes the importance of his family and his culture, he falls in love with Moushumi, the Bengalese woman. The story appears to have finally come to a happy conclusion. Gogol and Moushumi are married. But this is not a romantic happily-ever-after tale. Moushumi, who was a quiet and shy young teen, has tasted freedom in her twenties, a freedom from her parents and their strict Bengali ways. Now Moushumi feels confined in her marriage, no matter how well Gogol treats her. She turns away from him in the only way she knows how: she has an affair. The Namesake takes readers behind the closed doors of people who have immigrated to the United States to find a better life and the challenges they unexpectedly discover in the process.
The Namesake: Jhumpa Lahiri Biography
Like her characters in The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri is of Bengali/Indian descent. She was born in London, in 1967, and was later brought to Kingston, Rhode Island, where she grew up. When it was time for college, Lahiri went to Barnard, where she received her bachelor's degree in English literature. Afterward, she taught creative writing at Boston University and at the Rhode Island School of Design. Lahiri's first published book was a collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies (1999), which won the Pulitzer Prize. The topic of the stories in this collection is similar to the general theme of The Namesake—problems of assimilating to a new country. The Namesake is Lahiri's first novel. In...