English 2H/ P 10
May 21, 2012
A Whole New View
William Shakespeare, an English playwright and poet during the Renaissance,
once said, “What’s in a name? That which we a call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words’ words shouldn’t affect how much you love something because you should love something because you should love it just the same.Jhumpa Lahiri’s The
Namesake, a novel about an Indian man who is unsure of who he is because he can’t connect to a specific culture, illustrates the fallacy of Shakespeare’s assertion. Through J.
Lahiri’s use of characterization, symbols and figurative language, it is clear Gogol’s name is unconventional in both Bengali and American culture. Gogol’s name symbolizes that he can’t fully assimilate into the idealized upper class American culture and marry into his two cultures.
Instead, Gogol fins his parents’ lives in America vanishing without a trace. At his birth, Gogol’s name is a symbol of the fact that he is not fully American or
Bengali represents his lack of a cultural identity. In Freakonomics by Steven D. Levit and
Stephan J. Dubner it talks about where baby names come from. Most Americans give their children inspirational names, “high end” names, or unique names.They do this because they want their child to be successful in life and be able to accomplish whatever they want to accomplish. Gogol’s name is not American or Bengali, it in fact is actually Polish, Ukrainian, and Jewish. Gogol’s name symbolizes all the problems that he has had to go through because he couldn’t connect with his name in a cultural way. As an adolescent Gogol realizes that his name represents something bad. "...The only person who didn't take Gogol seriously, the only person who tormented him, the only person chronically aware of and afflicted by the
embarrassment of his name, the only person who constantly questioned it and wished it were otherwise, was Gogol."(100)Here, you see how much Gogol hates his name and feels embarrassed by it. From changing his name from Gogol to Nikhil, it symbolizes his separation from his family. Gogol’s change of name shows how he wants to fit into American culture.“He is afraid to be Nikhil, someone he does not know. Who doesn’t know him?”(p. 57 Lahari)
Gogol is not 100% sure if he wants to become Nikhil but he tries it anyway because he thinks that is the only way he will be able to find himself. Gogol’s name is a conflict for him because he can’t he can’t connect to it on a cultural level. Gogol’s inability to change into American culture proves his name “holds him back”. By rejecting Maxine, Gogol’s first real girlfriend, Gogol is also rejecting American culture and creating his own identity. Maxine only knows Nikhil, not Gogol. Their relationship doesn’t work out because she doesn’t know all of Gogol/ Nikhil."[Maxine] has the gift of accepting her life; as he comes to know her, he realizes that she has never wished she were anyone other that herself, raised in any other place, in any other way. This, in his opinion, is the biggest difference between them, a thing far more foreign to him that the beautiful house she'd grown up in, her education at private schools."(138) This proves that Maxine never had to worry about who she was because she was apart of the American culture and wasn’t confused about who she was because she knew she would always fit in. When Gogol marriesMoshumi (Mo) he tries to incorporate both Bengali and American culture. Gogol’s inability to create an American/ Bengali identity with Mo affects how their relationship ends up.
“[Astrid and Donald]reach out to people hosting dinner parties, bequeathing little bits of
themselves to their friends. They are passionate spokespeople for their brand of life, giving Gogol and Mo a steady, unquestionable stream of advice about quotidian things. They swear by a certain bakery on Sullivan Street, a