The Realistic Take On Immigrant Experience In The Namesake

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

‘Just because you know my name doesn’t mean you know my story,’ (Johnathon Anthony Burkett). This quote seems to be a perfect fit for The Namesake written by Jhumpa Lahiri, which is considered a realistic fiction. It starts at the beginning of the novel, in 1968, when Ashima is in the semi-private hospital room getting ready to deliver, who is soon to be, Gogol. Gogol is the name of Ashoke’s favorite Russian author, who just so happened to save his life. As Gogol grows up in the US he realizes that he doesn’t like his name at all. This led to the changing of his name in Chapter 5 when he becomes Nikhil. As Nikhil goes through his life experiencing all of the things a typical American does, he doesn’t feel like himself. Gogol doesn’t play the part that his parents give him from birth, which is the part he is to fulfill, throughout his life. The part Gogol is supposed to play is doing the things that his parents recommend. For example, letting them pick his spouse, going to a certain college, and getting a certain degree, etc.

As Gogol grows up and as he begins to understand more of the Bengali culture, he realizes he isn’t a fan of that type of lifestyle. Part of that lifestyle is having a “pet name” and a “good name”. Gogol wants to be like the rest of the Americans he spends his entire life with, by having one name. He is able to comprehend, even at a young age of 5, that everyone else only has one name, which is what he wants as well. “And what about you, Gogol? Do you want to be called by another name?… Is that a no?” (Lahiri 59) This shows that Gogol is more of an introvert by denying the attention of having two names during the time that he is at school and the time that he is at home with his family.

Naming is the main motif throughout the novel and it is also the most significant motif. Although Gogol wasn’t aware of the meaning behind his name, he did what he wanted and changed his name to Nikhil. He felt immediate remorse and guilt soon after changing his name. Gogol is very straight up with his parents and questions them and their decisions, “I don’t get it. Why did you have to give me a pet name in the first place? What’s the point?” (99) Gogol is giving mixed emotions about whether he wants a “pet name” or a “good name”. Out of all the emotions he is showing, it is clear to say that anger is a major one. At this point in the story, Gogol seems to get extremely angry whenever anything in his life is being referenced to the Bengali culture, it is evident that he wants to disregard everything that involves Calcutta. Keeping the same name throughout Gogol’s life allows him to feel like he fits in more, although that isn’t the typical Bengali way, which is the way that his parents preferred. A nickname in life is normal, but the Bengali Culture takes a nickname to the next level.

Gogol has the right to live the life he wants, considering his parents brought him to America so that he would be able to live a life of freedom. Gogol realizes that he is different than everyone else, but comes out to explain he wants to be the same, as the rest of his peers. He was given the pet name, Gogol, albeit he saw it differently and goes for what he wants by changing his name to Nikhil. You might consider Gogol a nickname, but every culture, especially the Bengali culture, sees a completely different perspective of the naming aspect. In the end, Gogol doesn’t necessarily play the ideal part his parents would prefer throughout his life. If Ashoke told Gogol his traumatizing train story sooner, maybe he wouldn’t have changed his name and maybe he would appreciate the Bengali culture more. There are a lot of “what if’s” involved in life, which should remind us constantly, to do what makes us happy.

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