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The Sake of The Namesake

Caesar, Judith. "Gogol's namesake: identity and relationships in Jhumpa Lahiri's The

Namesake."

Atenea, vol. 27, no. 1, 2007, p. 103+. Literature Resource Center,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=sant95918&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA1725

15901&it=r&asid=1e51c0c14ea574a05aa65eb8cd2ca196. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

This article describes how Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesakewould have been a

boring an mainstream take on another immigrant story if she did not include quotes from

Nikolai Gogol’s novel, The Overcoat. At first, it outlines the plot of The Overcoat, with

“The protagonist's name, Akaky Akakyevitch, suggests a contradictory identity in itself,

being a saint's name and yet sounding like a Russian baby-talk word for feces; and of

course the name is also simply a repetition of his father's name. Akaky is a non-entity.”

The Overcoatshows how one's identity is adjustable, since the protagonist changes his

identity according to whether or not he possesses an overcoat. Gogol’s short story does

not focus on plot, rather he focuses on style, because it allows the reader to create their

own perception of reality. Lahiri writes in a simple, straightforward way, which may bore

the reader, and at first glance, her characters seem to be lacking in depth. However, once

the reader draws connections between the references to The Overcoatand to the

characters in The Namesake, multiple layers of emotions are added to the characters.

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Jhumpa Lahiri weaves allusions to Nikolai Gogol’s short story, "The Overcoat", in her

novel, The Namesakein order to juxtapose the different views of American, Indian, and

Russian culture. Living with a blend of cultures, Lahiri’s characters struggle with finding

their true identity, and therefore they sometimes identify themselves with materialistic

items. “The Overcoat” parallels the theme of searching for identity, because Akaky

Akakyevitch, adopts a new identity when he wears an overcoat, and changes that identity

after his overcoat is stolen. He finds himself considered “normal” when wearing the

overcoat, but he also has relinquished his essential self, just as Gogol, the protagonist in

The Namesake, Americanizes himself and his family, which results in the loss of some of

their Indian culture. Using references to “The Overcoat”, Lahiri elevates her writing to

add another depth of meaning with parallels between Akakay's materialistic views and

American materialism. Gogol begins to view his parents materialistically just as Akakay

adopted a materialistic identity, and after Gogol’s father dies, he realizes he needs to

change his attitude.

Haerens, Margaret. "Overview of The Namesake." Gale Literary Overviews, Gale, 2012.

Literature

Resource Center,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=sant95918&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CAAA0

00068216&it=r&asid=d9c9cdc54c5ca22f6956b64ec26fe275. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

The beginning of this article summarizes the plot of Lahiri’s The Namesake, and points

out the running theme of Indian immigrants. Also, it describes Gogol’s struggle with his

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name, as his father chose to name him after a Russian author he loves, which makes

Gogol a Bengali American with a Russian name. The conflict of identity is clear in

Gogol, and this symbolizes “the clash of Euro-American and incipient South Asian

American cultures.” Even though Gogol chooses to change his name to Nikhil, the article

draws the conclusion that no matter what his name is, his personality will not change, and

the person he is as a child or teenager will always remain a part of his identity. Also, the

article states that “ancestral culture is ultimately inescapable”, and supports this with the

fact that Gogol chose to marry a Bengali after the sudden death of his father.

Lahiri’s novel The Namesakedescribes the struggles and rewards of being an Indian

immigrant. This article concludes that an immigrant will always adhere to their ancestral

culture and an identity can not just be eliminated, it can only be built upon. This may be

true in some cases, as Gogol chooses to switch to a Bengali name, and marries a Bengali

woman. However, he does not posses the same values as his Bengali parents, and his

marriage does not work out due to differing personalities, even though they were both

Bengali. Furthermore, his sister chooses to marry a non-Bengali, and the are portrayed as

being the perfect match, which shows that immigrants are not only compatible with those

that share their culture. All in all, this article tries to make generalized conclusions about

Indian immigrants, but it can not be true for all cases for the characters in The Namesake.

"Jhumpa Lahiri." Contemporary Literary Criticism, edited by Jeffrey W. Hunter, vol. 282, Gale,

2010.

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Literature Resource Center,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=sant95918&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CH1125

670000&it=r&asid=79d7c6f968c2c4f3ac3ec80d0ec0d80e. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

This article describes Jhumpa Lahiri’s journey of becoming a writer. She has always

enjoyed creative writing, but she decided to keep it a pastime and she went to Boston

University and received a master of arts degrees in English, creative writing, and

comparative studies in literature. Then, she received her Ph.D. in Renaissance studies at

Boston University. However, during her graduate years, she became to pursue writing

more than teaching. Her success was immediate, and she published her first piece of

work, Interpreter of Maladies, in 1999. She won a Pulitzer prize for her first piece of

work, making her the youngest recipient at thirty-two.

Lahiri’s The Namesakeis a novel about a Bengali American family, and the struggles and

rewards of being an Indian immigrant. Although she likes creative writing, The

Namesakeis realistic fiction, and it is an honest portrayal of Indian culture. She also

included multiple references to Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat, a Russian novel, in The

Namesake. This blend of American, Bengali, and Russian views shows the story from

different perspectives, which allows the reader to compare and contrast cultures and

ideologies. Her decision to include multiple cultures was most likely due to her master of

arts degree in comparative studies.

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Nawotka, Edward. "Pulitzer winner finds much in a name. (PW Talks With Jhumpa

Lahiri)."

Publishers Weekly, 7 July 2003, p. 49. Literature Resource Center,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=sant95918&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA

105616668&it=r&asid=01821f714bc94a514e2402e862d14c9d. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

This article outlines Jhumpa Lahiri’s life as an immigrant, student, and writer.

Lahiri was born in London, and then moved to Massachusetts. Ever since she was a

child, her name caused her great discomfort, since it is not a common Indian name,

and her mother only picked it because she liked the sound. Lahiri suffered teasing

due to her name, so she was a quiet, serious, and studious student who loved

literature and writing. Although she spoke almost no English, she learned quickly,

and despite taking frequent trips around the nation to visit relatives, she would

never fall behind in her studies. She was astonished when she heard that she won a

Pulitzer prize, and her parents were ecstatic, since it proved that all the struggle

they went through as immigrants payed off.

There are many similarities between Jhumpa Lahiri’s life, and the life of Gogol

Ganguli, the protagonist in her novel The Namesake. She is able to masterfully write

realistic and relatable emotions since she incorporates her own experiences in her

writing. For example, just as Jhumpa did not like her name as a child, Gogol hated

his name and he changes it to Nikhil. Lahiri illustrates Gogol’s annoyance with his

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unique name and how ashamed he is of it by channeling her own emotions

regarding her name, which adds to the depth of her character’s. In addition, Gogol

is forced to go on family trips and get togethers that he despises, similar to Lahiri’s

travels with her family, and Lahiri can make the reader understand Gogol’s

frustration perfectly because she knows the feeling as well.

Song, Min Hyoung. "The children of 1965: allegory, postmodernism, and Jhumpa Lahiri's The

Namesake." Twentieth Century Literature, vol. 53, no. 3, 2007, p. 345+. Literature

Resource Center,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=sant95918&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA1763

75407&it=r&asid=cc2067905fa8f733823aa7c3702da672. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

This article begins by stating that Lahiri’s simple style of writing is what makes The

Namesakeunique. Mark McGurl claims that writing about ethnic groups can be

compared to “professional research”, and ethnic literature will lead to "high cultural

pluralism.” Gogol has to choose between blending his American and Bengali culture

together, or relinquish his roots, and adopt American culture to fit in. McGurl believes

that The Namesakeis not a novel about resolving conflicts, rather, the novel includes

characters with multiple conflicts that have no clear resolution. Throughout the book,

Gogol fails to make decisions, and McGurl believes he is showing obstinate passivity.

McGurl interprets compares the scene where Gogol steps of the train to the train accident

Gogol’s father was involved in: Gogol’s uneventful train ride symbolizes how he is

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unable “to go off in a direction of his own choosing”, because he needs to stay on track.

The train his father rode got derailed, and his father was forced to create a new path in

life after the accident.

The fact that the characters in The Namesake do not truly resolve their conflicts may be

frustrating for the reader, but McGurl points out how Lahiri subtly points out conflicts,

such as two very different train rides, and the reader draws the conclusion that Gogol is

always getting derailed in life. Instead of having a turbulent train ride, he has many more

struggles than his father in real life. Lahiri also chooses never to state whether Gogol

plans to slowly eliminate Bengali traditions from his lifestyle, or if he plans to participate

in both Bengali and American traditions. This reveals that an immigrant does not always

have to choose between the two options, and they can completely eliminate certain

Bengali traditions and views, but still value their roots.

Yoon, Bogum, et al. "Assimilation ideology: critically examining underlying messages in

multicultural

literature: when multicultural literature issued for the purpose of critical

multicultural education, teachers can help students become engaged in critical

discourses of ideology and social actions." Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,

vol. 54, no. 2, 2010, p. 109+. Literature Resource Center,

go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=sant95918&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CA

239916192&it=r&asid=aaa1543b1eb1295780a24bf561729575. Accessed 7 Nov. 2016.

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This article follows the evolution of multicultural American literature, from 1970 to

present day. It states that American literature has always been global, but some

aspects of it have been lost throughout history due to racism and prejudice. Due to

this erasure, readers need to think in “multicultural or global terms” in order to

understand pieces of literature completely. Also, starting in the 1970s, authors

began to write novels in order to increase pride and awareness about certain ethnic

groups. However, there were differences in views and culture even within one ethnic

group, as “ethnic and racial identity has always been linked to class, gender, sexual

orientation, national origin, and age.” Because so many writers from different

backgrounds have contributed to American literature, it is impossible to classify it

in a single way, rather it should be regarded with a pluralistic mentality.

In Lahiri’s includes references to Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat, in her novel The

Namesake. The protagonist in The Namesake, Gogol Ganguli, is named after the

Russian author. The fact that she adds Russian literature to a novel about a Bengali

American shows how blending cultures gives the reader unique perspectives, as they

can compare and contrast cultures. All of Lahiri’s novels feature Indian

immigrants, and one of her goals in writing The Namesakeis to increase awareness

about Indian culture, specifically Bengali culture. Just as there are differences in

how writers from a single ethnic group portray their culture, there are differences

in how individuals in a single family view their culture. Gogol Ganguli and his sister

do not always follow Bengali traditions, but their parents always do no matter what.

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Gogol can not only identify as an American or only a Bengali, rather, he has to be

accepting of both.