2010
11.23

The Namesake

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake is a novel of expectation.  Primarily, like many authors, she is expecting her reader to possess a certain level on interest in the subject of her writing, the experiences of an immigrant family in the United States.  Just by being registered for this class, one would be right in assuming that I do have an interest in this topic.  Secondly, Lahiri expects her reader to be patient and observant.  Her writing is perhaps some of the most descriptive I’ve ever encountered, unashamed to let each and every detail develop into a fully realized image.   Now, coming off of a recent delve in Hemingway and Junot Diaz for another class, her writing was something I initially found, for lack of a better term, indulgent, and at times even tiresome.  As the story progressed and I found myself becoming more interested with the character of Gogol and became more generous with the text, and began giving her writing the attention it deserves.  Additionally, it is Lahiri’s expectation that her reader be aware of the middle-class lifestyle that the Ganguli’s subscribe to.  The issues that these characters face are far different from those who do not have the benefit of achieving a college-education or the support of stable finances.

The expectations Lahiri places on the novel’s central character Gogol become the driving force of the narrative.  From the very onset of his existence, Gogol is expected of.  He is expected to have a name worthy of a Bengali, to speak the language of his family, to uphold the many traditions of his culture, and to identify, respect, and befriend all other Bengalis.  Simultaneously, Gogol is expected to develop healthily, learn the language of his country, adhere to the facets of his American identity, achieve a level of comfortability with himself, and emerge from all of this feeling fulfilled and satisfied.  These demands often result in a great deal of conflict between his double identities, a conflict that he could never resolve.  Gogol spends years inhabiting only his Americanness only to succumb to the expectations of his Bengali culture in his marriage to Moushumi, and then finds himself suddenly betrayed by these actions and is left in solitude.

At the culmination of the novel, Gogol inhabits the room in which he struggled to escape as a young adult, clutching a book authored by his namesake.  Lahiri leaves us with this image in order to convey that Gogol has been granted a fresh start, a new foundation for which to construct his identity upon.  Now comfortable with his heritage and well-aware of the trappings of his country, Gogol is finally fit to fulfill his own expectations.

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