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Character Development in The Namesake
Transcript of Character Development in The Namesake
Gogol’s main conflict with his identity stems from his namesake.
o Not only does Gogol Ganguli have a pet name turned good name, but a last name turned first name. And so it occurs to him that no one he knows in the world, in Russia or India or America or anywhere, shares his name. Not even the source of his namesake. (4.26)
As a small child Gogol accepts his name but slowly as he grows older he see’s its uniqueness.
o "He is afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesn't know. Who doesn't know him." (3.19)
o “To read the story he believes, would mean paying tribute to his namesake, accepting it somehow.” (p. 148)
Eventually Gogol tries to reinvent himself by changing his name to Nikhil. He pushes away his Indian culture and tries to fit into the American lifestyle.
o At times, as the laughter at Gerald and Lydia's table swells, and another bottle of wine is opened, and Gogol raises his glass to be filled yet again, he is conscious of the fact that his immersion in Maxine's family is a betrayal of his own. (6.54)
In the end, after his father dies, Gogol finally accepts his namesake.
o Without people in the world to call him Gogol, no matter how long he himself lives, Gogol Ganguli will, once and for all, vanish from the lips of loved ones, and so, cease to exist. Yet the thought of this eventual demise provides no sense of victory, no solace. It provides no solace at all. (12.24)
• At the beginning of the story she is the most culturally conservative.
o She misses her family back home
o She has trouble settling into her new American life
o She does not have friends
• She gives a unique perspective.
o Her children have never left home
o However the fact that she only shares this with her husband creates a void between her and her children
• She is the glue that keeps the family together
o Hard life with her children growing up and her family back home growing old
o Children adopting American traditions
o Only person can relate to is husband, when he dies deeply mourns his death, takes it very hard
• By the end plans to move back to India but decides to stay
o Thinks of Calcutta as foreign
o She has grown accustom to life in the states
o She accepts her daughter’s non-Bengali fiancé
o She understands why Gogol divorced Moushumi
o She gets along with her children better in general
o Makes American friends
o She isn’t fully Bengali or American and she is at peace with that
Her name means “she who is limitless, without boarders” that is fitting because she has reached the point where she really has transcended boundaries.
• Through most of the book, Gogol does not know about his father’s train accident which led to his odd name.
o The event was a pivotal moment in Ashoke’s life.
o It was an important enough event to want to name his son after the author of the book that saved his life
• Ashoke struggles between a balance of keeping his Bengali traditions and assimilating to the American life.
o Ashoke is portrayed as a reserved man. He never loses his temper or criticizes Gogol.
o In Calcutta, he is a completely different person. He is confident, unlike his reserved self in America
o “. . . to a casual observer, the Gangulis, apart from the name on their mailbox, apart from the issues of India Abroad and Sangbad Bichitra that are delivered there, appear no different from their neighbors.”
o This shows the Ashoke has changed after coming to America. He is not the same person he was in India. His son is even surprised by his parents’ personalities when they visit Calcutta.
• After Ashoke shares his tragic story with his son, they both realize they have a lot in common.
o "Though there are only inches between them, for an instant his father is a stranger, a man who has kept a secret, has survived a tragedy, a man whose past he does not fully know."
o The knowledge of his father’s accident changes his point of view on his father.
• Ashoke passes away before Gogol learned to truly appreciate his father.
o This represents a missed opportunity for Gogol to better understand his culture.
How has your opinion of your name/culture changed throughout your life?