Chronic Cultural Discontinuity in "The Namesake" Analytical Essay by scribbler

Chronic Cultural Discontinuity in "The Namesake"
An analysis of the Bengali-American identity issues in Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Namesake".
# 152501 | 1,493 words | 0 sources | 2013 | US
Published on Feb 26, 2013 in Literature (World)

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The paper discusses how in "The Namesake", Jhumpa Lahiri demonstrates a profound reluctance to settle for easy answers to the questions of cultural and personal identity that the Bengali-American experience raises. The paper describes how with the eponymous Gogol--a young man saddled with a second-hand surname in place of a name of his own--and the extended cast of girlfriends, wives, relatives, friends, and colleagues, Lahiri populates her world with perpetual immigrants alternately comforted and repelled by the bonds of family history. The paper concludes that Lahiri's message is not so much to understand where our parents came from, as to understand how and why they came to where we are today.

From the Paper:

"Accident is the frequent enemy of tradition here. Gogol Ganguli, a first-generation Bengali-American, is not the titular "namesake" of anyone in either his parents' native Calcutta or their adopted Boston milieu; instead, after his formal Bengali name is literally lost in the mail, his father adopts the expedient of nicknaming the baby after a favorite writer. By the time this placeholder is supplemented with an "official" name that actually "means something 'in Indian'" (Lahiri, 76), it is too late. The boy will no longer respond to anything but "Gogol," and, on a metaphorical level, will always be alienated from a completely Indian identity. His Bengali name will always be blank (56).
"Neither truly Bengali nor truly American, Gogol's adolescence is alienated even by the difficult standards of the immigrant experience. Many hyphenated children wrestle with the sense of being inhabitants of two worlds and true citizens of neither, but the "absurd and obscure" (76) Russian element of Gogol's heritage sabotages even this fraught relationship between old-world tradition and the fluid self-generated identity often admired as a generic "American" trait.
"In order to revolt against the old world his parents left behind, he first needs to rebel into a more conventional Bengali-American identity, abandoning the unexplainable "Gogol" for the "Nikhil" that both makes sense in a Bengali context and slides more easily into the American "Nick.""

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