Topics: Family, Kolkata, The Namesake Pages: 6 (2463 words) Published: June 26, 2006
To Be or Not To Be
Throughout the novel, The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, the character Gogol changes in many different ways. One of the most apparent changes was in his "Indian ness". By "Indian ness" I mean the amount of his parents Bengali ways and traditions that he retained. While growing up he did everything in his power while growing up to stray away from his parents' Bengali ways. Gogol spent most of his life trying to differ from his parents, however in the end he ends up obeying their wishes as to who he marries. As he was growing up Gogol felt only embarrassment and shame because of his background and because his parents did things differently than his other American friends' parents. For example, unlike his American friends, while in college Gogol had to return home every other weekend to accompany his parents to their Bengali friends' parties. Throughout his life he tried to shed his parent's un-American lifestyle but in the end he succumbed to his past and ancestry. The first thing that separated Gogol from his parents' Bengali ways began before he was even born. He was the first child in his parents' immediate family to ever be born in America. His parents were poor and unstable and this was the life he was brought into. When he was born, the only people who visited him and his mother in the hospital were new friends of Ashima and Ashoke. While still in the hospital, Ashima thinks to herself, "Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby's birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true…She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived"(Lahiri 24-25). This was very unlike any other birth ever to take place in either Ashima or Ashoke's family. I can relate to what Ashima means in the sense that I have two baby siblings and I visited them in the hospital with my other family members many times. Among my visits were trips made by grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. It is a celebration in a family and it's a time that brings family together. If we had been in another country when my baby siblings were born it wouldn't have felt right, my mom having to sit in the hospital room alone all the time and not having many visitors at all would have been horrible. Another event that happens in the beginning of Gogol's life that makes him less Indian than any of his other relatives is in his naming. Every grandchild in Ashima's family had been given a name by Ashima's grandmother. When Ashima learned she was pregnant, her and Ashoke wrote to her grandmother and requested a name for their first child. The grandmother thought carefully and wrote back with a boys name and a girls name just in case. However, that letter was lost and therefore Gogol came into this world with his parents clueless as to what to name him. They decided to not name him until the letter arrived, then they were informed by the hospital that he could not be discharged until a birth certificate was filled out. If the parents couldn't come up with a name his first name would go down as "Baby Boy". Ashima and Ashoke held their ground and insisted that they couldn't name their boy yet. That was until the hospital advised them to come up with something for now because to change it later would be a hassle and cost money. After hearing this news, the couple was distraught until Ashoke suggested naming him "Gogol" for now. Nikolai Gogol is a famous author, and Ashoke's favorite because not only does he admire his writing abilities, he also attributes his book "The Overcoat" with saving of his life when he was in a train accident years ago. When Ashima hears her husband's name suggestion for their son she "…approves, aware that the name stands not only for her son's life, but her husband's…Besides, it's only a pet name, not to be taken seriously, simply something to put on the certificate for now to release them from the hospital"...
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