The Quest for Identity

Topics: The Namesake, Culture Pages: 3 (1086 words) Published: March 29, 2012
In some point of our lives, we all try to find our identities; try to find a place that we can fit in completely. Most people struggle, some does not. The question of identity is especially difficult for immigrants and their coming generations since they have different cultures and different views. In the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the main character Gogol struggles with his cultural identity due to the ideological difference between him and his parents on the concept of name. According to Bengali naming traditions, everyone has two names, a pet name and a good name. The good name is for the public to use, the pet name is for family and friends to use in private places, it is also “a persistent remnant of childhood, a reminder that life is not always so serious, so formal, so complicated. They are a reminder, too, that one is not all things to all people” (26). Different traditions represent different cultures; In the United States, many people name their son after the father or the grandfather to honor the elders and also act as a symbol of heritage. On another hand in India, every name is sacred and cannot be inherited. Ashima and Ashoke decided to name their first child Gogol, this name doesn’t just represent the life of this child, it also represents the life of the father-Ashoke. However, this shapeless and weightless name has become a burden of Gogol’s life for a long long time. The first lesson that Gogol learns about his names is at the town’s public elementary school. At first, he does not want to go to kindergarten because his parents have told him that he will be call a new name-Nikhil at school which he does not want and does not understand. “He is afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesn’t know” (57). Of course, he is not the only one who doesn’t understand about the pet name and the good name. When Ashoke tries to explain to the principal Mrs. Lapidus about why they want her to call Gogol Nikhil, Mrs. Lapidus tries to understand, but ends up...
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