The Complexity Of Identity In The Namesake By Jhumpa Lahiri

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

Lauryn Hill once stated, “All of humanity is living in a dream world, but suffering real consequences” (Medrut). In The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, several characters strive to find their identity, despite acting on impulse and showing minimal thought to the possible ramifications of their actions. The identities of Gogol, and Moushumi transform as the characters develop from simplistic and concealed children to opinionated individuals who establish their future beyond the judgement of others, despite the consequences that arise as a result. Gogol’s developing identity begins to manifest when the actions of affiliated characters induce a series of events that augment his preparedness to make policies for himself, and commence his intimate relationships, in spite of the conclusively bad outcomes. Likewise, Moushumi’s identity unfolds as she develops her own decisions, but is challenged with numerous sentimental results.

The ongoing dissension and dissimilarity that transpires between Gogol and surrounding individuals, heavily fuels his commitment to prepare decisions for himself, in defiance of the repercussions. First and foremost, as Gogol’s name revolutionizes to Nikhil, he immediately endures satisfaction and relief, but not all is positive, as he promptly discovers the significance and influence of his name. As Ashoke visits Gogol’s University, Gogol instantaneously “wonders if he is lonely” (Lahiri 122), as a result of their minimal interactions. When Ashoke discloses “the night that had nearly taken his life, and the book that had saved him” (123), Gogol is intensely overwhelmed, and suddenly his initial name “means something completely new” (123). Though Gogol unwittingly displays satisfaction for fluctuating his name, he begins to comprehend that “Nikhil will live on, publicly celebrated, unlike Gogol, purposely hidden, legally diminished, now all but lost” (290), illustrating culpability and guilt for his apathetic behaviors. Secondly, the visionary essence that Gogol exhibits for his future motivates him to act upon his strong-willed desires, provoking an ongoing battle amongst his parents’ beliefs and the conflicting views he maintains. Gogol’s negative frame of mind elicits his pessimistic thoughts and feelings towards his parents, subsequently making “[it] easier to ignore his parents, to tune out their concerns and pleas” (105). As a result, “his parents don’t suspect Gogol of being, in his own fumbling way, an American teenager” (93), regardless of the carefree persona he displays with his friends. Restrained by his own judgement, Gogol’s backwards mentality “finds himself capable of doing little at his parents’ but eat and sleep” (107), inducing a distant and isolated relationship. Thirdly, though Ashima and Ashoke cherish Gogol’s presence, Gogol frequently feels alleviation when he is dissociated with them, in spite of speedily acknowledging the time that is frittering away. As a result, Gogol’s confidential background is incompatible with his newly solidified girlfriend dubbed Maxine, as she “is open about her past, showing him photographs of her ex-boyfriends in the pages of a marble-papered album speaking of those relationships without embarrassment or regret” (137-138). However, the inevitable demise of Ashoke has a spine-chilling effect on Gogol, generating him to feel “guilty [when] throwing out the food” (175) in his father’s apartment and treacherous remorse for their lost time. For these reasons, acts of affection and incorporation would eliminate the dissatisfaction that Gogol endlessly experiences, evoking a reduced amount of displeasure in his resolutions.

In New York, Gogol’s identity emerges as he develops several intimate relationships that mark an exhilarating stage of his life, but he ultimately endures adversity from their unconventional outcomes. As Gogol’s relationship with Ruth flourishes, he experiences his first impressions of true love, expeditiously removing his despondency, and thus, instigating a disoriented state of mind when deprived from her presence. When Ruth moves to Oxford, their relationship quickly dwindles, as “they’d begun fighting, both [admitting] in the end that something had changed” (120), despite the fundamental affection that is originally exhibited to the eye. As a result, “It sickens [Gogol] to think of the physical distance between them” (117), having contributed to a great deal of despair and discouragement during his time at Yale. Furthermore, Gogol demonstrates gratitude upon his relationship with Maxine blooming, in spite of hastily concluding that she takes valuable time away from his immediate family. As the demise of Ashoke elicits a stronger bond between Gogol and his family, he is agitated at the fact “he hears her say sorry to his mother, aware that his father’s death does not affect Maxine at the least” (182), and that “she had not understood being excluded from the family’s plans to travel to Calcutta” (188), regardless of his family’s grace and heartache. As Gogol feels less inclined to share his background with Maxine, she is inspired to constantly feel compassion from him, stimulating their separation in virtue of her “feeling jealous of his mother and sister” (188), which generates further downheartedness for Gogol. When Gogol and Moushumi are joined in marriage, he is overjoyed and assumes that they will live in perpetual happiness, but not all is optimistic, as Moushumi consequently acts on impulse and unfaithfulness. Once Moushumi discloses her affair with Dimitri to Gogol, “He felt the chill of her secrecy, numbing him, like a poison spreading quickly through his veins” (282), which results in their divorce. Therefore, the quantity of kind-heartedness that he devotes to Moushumi all fell in vain, which leads to him feeling “the anger, [and] the humiliation of having been deceived” (282), giving rise to a despondent outlook on his future. Ultimately, an appropriate and thought out approach, such as learning more about his partner propels his relationships towards a downward spiral, despite their former benefits on his individuality.

Similarly, Moushumi undergoes a transformation of identity that arises from empowering her own decisions, even though she reaches several detrimental outcomes that diminish her “flawless” image. Firstly, Moushumi’s growing confidence around her parents, empowers a stronger demand to make her own decisions, in violation of them being actively against it. In the course of her childhood, Moushumi grows further apart from her family’s persuasive prospect, as she pursues “a double major in French” (214), eradicating gut feelings of “guilt, or [misgivings], or expectation of any kind” (214), despite decisively ignoring her father’s footsteps. As Moushumi’s parents show a lack of sensitivity towards her opinions, she becomes determined to pursue her own decisions, though she acquires reduced support, as she “scraped together all the money she had and moves to [Paris]” (215) for her post-secondary education. Confined by her discord, Moushumi’s ambition to separate herself from her Bengali heritage, drives her to contravene her parents’ desires, without severing all ties with them. As a result, “By the time she [is] twelve she [makes] a pact, with two other Bengali girls, never to marry a Bengali man” (213) by virtue of her parents admonishing her to avoid marrying an American. Though she feels emancipated from her parents’ wishes, she inevitably regrets her disobedience, as she observes the difficulties of restraining herself to establishing relationships with Anglo-Saxons. Though Gogol and Moushumi’s companionship begins passionately, she promptly finds herself feeling pent-up and restrained to their marriage, urging her to delve into other men that pleasure her without uncovering her seemingly immaculate status. As she reconciles with Dimitri, they instantaneously have an affair, evoking an apprehensive frame of mind, as “she fears that [Gogol] will sense something, that he will put his arms around her and instantly know” (265) during the period of her absence on Mondays and Wednesdays. Therefore, her adoption of resolution seemingly reveals her absentmindedness and deception towards Gogol, but as she inadvertently divulges her affair, “a hand had gone to her mouth” (282) in fear of exposing and ravaging her “impeccable” identity. Ultimately, Moushumi’s preparedness to make decisions for herself has horrifying consequences, and thus, a simple gesture, such as making educated settlements, could have prevented the catastrophic outcomes that imminently come to fruition.

To conclude, Gogol and Moushumi transfigure their identities, as they evolve from simplistic and misrepresented children to self-assured individuals who create decisions for their future beyond the shrewdness of others, in spite of the ramifications that come to light. This is manifested through the impulsive behaviours that Gogol develops resulting in his willingness to make resolutions for himself, and commence devoted relationships with significant others, despite the disastrous conclusions that emerge. Moushumi’s desires encourage her to disclose her identity, as she makes her own choices, even though she is confronted with regrettable outcomes. By giving into their own impulses, Gogol and Moushumi’s behavior causes a ripple effect that is indicative of the idea that they are “living in a dream world” (Medrut), and are “suffering real consequences” (Medrut).

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