Reinvention Of Characters In The Namesake

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

In the novel, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, the main character Gogol goes through some dramatic changes throughout the story. The book follows the character, Gogol, and his family’s life as he grows up in America. His parents are immigrants from India and many aspects of their lives have changed greatly due to American culture and other differences. Gogol tries to reinvent himself in many ways to try to fit in with the American culture. Ever since he was a child, Gogol was always changing things about his life such as asking his mother to make him American lunches and realizing his name was very unique. The whole novel revolves around Gogol and his relationship with his name. In the novel, The Namesake, Gogol reinvents himself throughout the story by changing his name to something more “American”, separating himself from his family, and developing new relationships that his parents might not approve of.

When Gogol was a young boy, his life was very different than the rest of his peers in America. He realized that his lunches were different than the other students in his class. He wanted his mother to make him “American” lunches instead of the traditional Indian lunches that she would make. The Ganguli family also started adopting several American holidays and traditions such as celebrating Christmas, even though they do not practice the religion. The Ganguli family accepts these changes and realizes, “For the sake of Gogol and Sonia they celebrate, with progressively increasing fanfare, the birth of Christ, an event the children look forward to far more than the worship of Durga and Saraswati”(64). Gogol and his sister Sonia prefer these American holidays over the Indian ones. Ashoke and Ashima give in to these changes because they know it is the “American way”.

Another major change that Gogol goes through to reinvent himself involves the evolution of his name. In the beginning, when Gogol was a young boy Gogol liked his name and did not want to be called anything else. When his parents tried to give him his “good name” Gogol rejected it because he was afraid of change. Gogol associated his “good name” with a different person, “He is afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesn’t know. Who doesn’t know him” (57). When Gogol is asked by the principal if he wants to be called Nikhil, Gogol says no because he does not want to become a different person. As the story develops, Gogol has a change of heart. When Gogol gets to be a teenager he wants to change his name back to Nikhil. Before, the thought of becoming a new person scared Gogol, now he takes renaming himself as a sign to develop a new identity. Gogol was always embarrassed of his name, and going into college he felt like it was a good time for this change. Gogol still associates Nikhil as a different identity, “It is as Nikhil, that first semester, that he grows a goatee, starts smoking Camel Lights at parties, and while writing papers and before exams, discovers Brian Eno and Elvis Costello and Charlie Parker” (105). Gogol develops a new found confidence with becoming Nikhil. With being Nikhil, he can focus solely on the present, whereas Gogol remains in the past. Gogol can separate these two identities with different people. His family knows him as Gogol, but the people he meets at college only know him as Nikhil.

Gogol uses college as a way to reinvent himself. At college, people only know Gogol as Nikhil and have no clue about his past. Gogol wants to separate himself from his past as much as possible. There is a club at school that consists of Indian Americans called ABCD. Gogol chooses not to be a part of this club, “He has no ABCD friends at college. He avoids them, for they remind him too much of the way his parents choose to live, befriending people not so much because they like them, but because of a past they happen to share” (119). Gogol does not want to be a part of this club because of the fact that it reminds him of his parents and his past. Gogol knows that being in this club would be something that his parents would want, so Gogol as a way of reinventing himself stays away from people in ABCD. Gogol knows that his parents often befriend other Bengali’s solely because they share commonalities. Gogol does not want to follow in his parents footsteps and wants to become as different as possible. Gogol sees ABCD as a way to connect the past to the present, so he decides to stay away from it.

It is as Nikhil that Gogol meets his girlfriend Maxine. Gogol starts to date an American girl named Maxine who lives a much different lifestyle than he does. Maxine is happy still living with her parents, Lydia and Gerald. They live in a beautiful house in New York and own a lake house in New Hampshire. Gogol begins to live with Maxine and her family as he spends more time with her family than his own. He starts to fall in love with their lifestyle, “At times, as the laughter at Gerald and Lydia’s table swells, and another bottle of wine is opened, and Gogol raises his glass to be filled yet again, he is conscious of the fact that his immersion in Maxine’s family is a betrayal of his own” (133). Gogol realizes that he is spending way more time with Maxine’s family than his own. He feels like he is somewhat betraying his own family by not seeing them as often. He is not driven to spend time with his family anymore, “He didn’t want to go home on the weekends, to go with them to pujos and Bengali parties, to remain unquestionably in their world” (126). Gogol is separating himself from his parents world. He is so in love with the lifestyle of Lydia and Gerald that he does not want to go home. Gogol is separating himself from his family’s Bengali traditions. Maxine notices how different Gogol is from his parents. This is an example of how Gogol is trying to create a new identity for himself. He is trying to separate his lifestyle from his parents’. His parents want Gogol to find a lucrative career in the sciences, whereas Gogol decides to pursue architecture. Throughout the novel, Gogol Ganguli tries in multiple ways to reinvent himself.

Gogol wants to change himself, but he realizes that changing things about himself will not change the past or who he is. He associates the changing of his name with becoming a different person. He tries to leave his past behind and in doing so he separates himself from his family. American culture has changed his views on the traditional Indian beliefs and culture that his parents follow. Since Gogol has grown up in America, he is only familiar with the “American way” of life. His parents immigrated from India, so they still have values from their home country. Gogol reinvents himself by Americanizing his and his parents’ way of life. He separates himself from his family, changes his name to something more “American”, and develops new relationships that his parents might not approve of.

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