Issue Of Immigration In The Namesake

April 27, 2022 by Essay Writer

A person’s identity is determined by several factors, an important one being the culture in which he lives. When migrating to another country, then, the contrasting cultures which create two conflicting identities present a significant challenge for the immigrant. Mira Nair’s film The Namesake (2007) depicts this challenge in two generations: first-generation parents Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli and their second-generation son Gogol. Throughout the film, the characters struggle to balance their American life with their Indian heritage. Generally, Nair’s portrayal of Ashima and Ashoke’s experience, though mostly accurate to the immigration experience, romanticizes some aspects; Gogol, on the other hand, fits his role as a conflicted second-generation immigrant.

When Ashoke and Ashima go to the United States near the beginning of the film, they soon discover the differences between America and India. Her Indian opportunities are gone, Sánchez explains, Ashima must accept her limitations in America, for Ashoke is “used to doing everything by himself,” and so she cannot do anything but wait for his return. This expectation, typical for an Indian arranged marriage, was revealed during her conversation with Ashoke’s parents, but America presents different opportunities that Ashima can take (Sánchez 127). Meanwhile, Ashoke’s desire to go to America stems from the advice that the stranger gave him many years ago on the train: “See the world. You will never regret it.” His suitcase, seen on the journey to the US, represents his movement toward the future (America) and remembrance of the past (India) (Balirano 95). Both characters’ identities adopt an American component, leading to their struggle in the new land. Unfortunately, their arranged marriage is shown in far too positive a light, and the contrast between America and India is “questionable” (Laurier par. 11-13). The overall portrayal of their cultural confusion and immigrational “isolation,” however, is accurate (Lim par. 2).

The couple’s conflict between their identities yields them a son with the Indian “pet name” Gogol. Traditionally, the grandmother names the baby, but since her letter didn’t arrive, Ashoke chooses the name of his favorite author, intending for it to be temporary. Gogol, however, chooses to keep his name. His split identity creates a conflict for him different from that of his parents. Shariff asserts that at first, Gogol dismisses the Indian half of his name but eventually welcomes it. This change is shown through his feelings toward his name, representing deeper acculturation matters (Shariff 74). As the child of Indian immigrants, Gogol’s “American-Born Confused Desi” personality is accurate (Balirano 89).

Furthermore, the film elaborates on the relationship with Americans that second-generation immigrants develop and the effect that their dual identity has on it. The “cultural contrast” between immigrants and their children and Western people is shown when Gogol meets a white lady at a dinner party and is asked about his age. Nair portrays this interaction well (Sharma 136). Gogol answers that he was born in America, but the wedge has already been driven between his two identities. The internal division within him adds to his already rebellious teen spirit, leading to his “rejection of an entire way of life” (Lim par. 5). 

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