The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, Essay Example

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri follows the story of Gogol Gangul, as well as his parents Ashoke and Ashima, but particularly Gogol as he journeys through life trying to find out his true identity. The book The Namesake gets it’s name from Gogol’s quest for who he is inside- and through that process, he changes his name in an attempt to forget his past. Gogol, Nikil, whoever he is, the main character of the story is torn between his American and Indian heritage. In his quest for personal fulfillment, Gogol hurts many of the people close to him. It is only through the passing of his own father that Gogol realizes his true identity and purpose, and the book comes full circle- with Gogol finally bonding with both his Indian and American heritages rather than running from them both.

The book begins with Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli welcoming Gogol into the world, only unlike traditional children, Gogol is Bengali. That meant that his parents had to break tradition in order to give him his name. Right from birth Gogol’s identity was rushed and unplanned, it’s no wonder he wound up looking for himself years later. As Gogol grows up he learns to embrace the American culture more than the Bengali culture and eventually he winds up in college in New York City. This is where he meets Maxine. Maxine is Gogol’s first love. They date for some time but during the relationship Gogol’s father passes away and eventually Maxine and Gogol break up. The passing of Gogol’s father is the climax of the story. At this part of the story, Gogol realizes the importance of family and his Indian heritage. This is when he begins to reconnect with his Bengali roots. Gogol gets married and learns to embrace both his Indian and American heritage, but his marriage doesn’t last. His wife has an affair on him and Gogol gets a divorce, but Gogol was not searching for love, Gogol was searching for himself- so in the end Gogol got what he alway wanted.

The themes in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake include the search for one’s own identity, the importance of family, the quest for love and the contrasting views of society and class. The setting of The Namesake takes place in a variety of places, but mainly New York City, and Massachusetts, as well as India. Strengths in The Namesake include the strong emphasis on the theme of identity and love, as well as the emotional quest that Jhumpa Lahiri takes readers on through the story. Weaknesses in The Namesake include the poor ending that was disappointing and thin, as well as some bland use of speech. The overall mood of the book tends to be serious in nature.

After reading The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri I found the book intriguing and provocative. I definitely understood the message that Lahiri was trying to get across regarding the quest for one’s own identity as well as the quest for love- and both of those resonated with me. I related with Gogol and understood why he felt incomplete in this mysterious world around him. The only part of the book that I would change would be the ending. Although I was unhappy with the ending, if I was Lahiri, I would have ended the book with Gogol winding up with Maxine in a beautiful merging of the Indian and American cultures, but I am not the author. I still enjoyed the read and I would not consider it dull at all. I would and have recommended this book to my friends and family and consider it to be a great book telling the story of the search for one’s own self.

Outline

Title:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

Introduction:

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is a book about finding one’s own identity while on a personal quest of love, strife and laughter.

Body:

Gogol Ganguli is an American-Indian who has no idea who he is. The book The Namesake takes readers on Gogol’s personal journey from life through his mid-thirties- the years when he finally realizes his true identity. In the process Gogol battles with his Indian and American side. He also dates a girl named Maxine, loses his father, marries a woman named Moushumi, divorces Moushumi, then finally realizes that nothing matters if he doesn’t know who he is inside- but at this point in the story, Gogol has found himself, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Supporting Idea:

Gogol leaves his family, changes his name to Nikhil and starts dating Maxine in hopes to “find himself”. When his father dies however, Gogol drops everything and goes to his family where he realizes the importance of family, culture and identity- the things he has been running from the whole time.

Conclusion:

Gogol’s attempt to escape from his own culture only lead him back home where he inevitably found his true identity.