Tues/Thurs 11 AM
1 May 2012
All names have meanings in life. The meaning is what makes them valuable and symbolic to each individual. Names are often what make up a person’s identity. However, names are never chosen by the people themselves but rather pre-determined by the parent at birth. Therefore, the name is more often a projection of what the parent wants for their child and not a reflection of the child’s personality and aspirations. In the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Gogol is caught between two identities. Growing up in the western culture, it really influenced him to assimilate into American way of life until his father dies. At this point he has a self-realization that he should not fully abandon his Bengali culture.
Ever since Gogol was born he has been accustom to the Western culture. He enjoys American food, American places, and American traditions much more than he enjoyed Bengali food, Bengali tradition and Bengali places. Gogol, Sonia, and other young family friends could be seen in one room eating pizza while the elders could be seen in another room eating traditional Bengali meals. This is because the second generation of Bengalis knows nothing more than American so they prefer to live an American rather giving Bengali food a chance. An Asian American article explains why many second generations often assimilate to American culture. Article reads “Children of immigrants avoid discrimination by assimilating to the norm of society which most often includes language, food, and lifestyle” (Zia 427). During the novel, Gogol and Sonia tell their parents that they want to celebrate Christmas the Western style. Ashoke and Ashima are unsure about it and the purpose of a Christmas tree yet they do it for their children anyways. Christmas is one of the most celebrated holidays by the Western culture. Around this time of the year, other cultures besides the Western cultures are celebrating holidays like Honokaa or Kwanzaa which is much different than putting presents under a Christmas tree.
Throughout the novel, Gogol and his family conduct many trips to their homeland Bengali but not once does he appreciate it until he gets older. Trips would last as long as nine months and during this time he dreads every moment. The reason he does not appreciate being in Bengali is because he does not feel a part of the culture but rather distanced. This is because he is use to living in America and not in a third world country. If he were to grow up in Bengali and not America then he would not feel as out of place to his homeland as he did in the novel. This situation is also similar in Tanya Barrientos situation explained in “Se Habla Espanol”. Tanya, like Gogol, did not want a part of her original culture, which was Spanish and would much rather assimilate to the American culture (Barrientos 319).
Life in America had a major impact in Gogol’s identity and way of thinking. Going to school in America makes him very with what it means to be American and causes him to make his own decisions. Up until high school, Gogol was stuck with his birth name that he never really appreciated. “he looks at the table of contents, sees Gogol listed after Faulkner, before Hemingway. The sight of it printed in capital letters on the crinkly page upsets him viscerally. It's as though the name were a particularly unflattering snapshot of himself that makes him want to say in his defense, "That's not really me". Gogol wants to excuse himself, to raise his hand and take a trip to the lavatory, but at the same time he wants to draw as little attention to himself as possible. And so he sits, avoiding eye contact with any of his classmates, and pages through the book.” (Namkesake, 89).
After Gogol graduates, he comes to the decision that he wants to change his name to is original good name which was suppose to be Nikhil. In giving the reasoning to his name change decision, he…