American Culture In Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake

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Many people are exposed to different cultures throughout their lifetime and inherit various traditions and beliefs from these interactions. However, the addition of another culture distances a person from their original identity, one of the most important themes of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake. This theme is introduced at the very beginning of the novel when Gogol Ganguli is made aware of the American culture at a very young age. In addition, he tries to balance out both cultures without offending or hurting his parents. However, just like many people he struggles to fit into the American culture because he is still holding onto his Bengali past. Each character faces a choice: should I adapt to American culture? Instead of keeping his…show more content…
The Ganguli family follow certain traditions from their Bengali culture. From the Ganguli perspective, babies are assigned two names. A “good” and “bad” name are both chosen by the family. However, unlike Ashoke, Gogol despises his name and feels as if the Indian tradition is meaningless. As a result, Gogol decides to change his name. For example, “As a child, he associates a new name with a new identity. Gogol is not bothered by the unusual nature of his name… By his fourteenth birthday, Gogol has come to hate his name” (Lahiri, 76). As you can see, Gogol is very agitated by his name. This shows the reader one day Gogol won 't be able to cope with his name, thus he will be forced to change it. To emphasize, the author is trying to foreshadow what will most likely happen in the future. This is very evident because everytime Gogol is growing older he is growing a stronger hatred towards his name. Moreover, Gogol doesn’t have a polite or normal nickname either. For instance, his sister, Sonia, calls him “Goggles” instead of Gogol (Lahiri, 74). This type of bullying makes Gogol even more eager to change his name. This experience upheld until he officially changed his name to Nikhil. Knowing these past events, the reader can assume the author tried to imply a change in Gogol’s cultural preference. This is because it isn’t a common custom for an Indian…show more content…
Throughout The Namesake, Gogol Ganguli meets different people. Yet only a few of Gogol’s friendships will last and develop into a major bond. These bonds will determine how Gogol’s identity is changed in the future. As a result, right after Gogol moved out of his parent’s house, he met a girl named Maxine. She seems like the person to answer all of Gogol 's problems because Maxine fits the type of girl Gogol is attracted to. As a result, Gogol decided to date her and the two had been dating for a long time. For example, “He is curious about her, attracted, flattered by the boldness of her pursuit“ (Lahiri, 130). As you can see, Gogol is very interested in Maxine and believes she is the best girlfriend he’d ever have. Gogol uses words such as “flattering" and “bold" to describe Maxine. By getting more familiar with Maxine, Gogol is dissolving his connection to Bengali culture. For example, “At times… he is conscious of the fact that his immersion in Maxine’s family is a betrayal of own. It isn’t simply the fact that his parents don’t know about Maxine” (Lahiri, 155). Ever since Gogol met Maxine, he is spending more and more time with her. As a result, Gogol is concerned his relationship with Maxine is going overboard. Thus, Gogol feels he is betraying his own family and culture. At the same time, Gogol doesn’t have the audacity to tell his parents about Maxine. Gogol was afraid his parents would criticize him for
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