A migrant’s ability to easily assimilate into a culture can be depended on whether or not it was voluntarily done, as they find it easier to discard their past and create a new identity than those who were strained to do so. Both Jhumpa Lahiri’s bildungsroman novel, ‘The Namesake’ and Kent MacCarter and Ali Lemer’s anthology ‘Joyful Strains’, explore the ways in which first generation and second-generation migrants display a positive view towards their migration journey. However, this positive outlook towards migration is to some degree only true for some migrants, as it is implied that those who willing migrate appear to find it easier to assimilate into their new country, as their reason for migrating is to discard their past. Both texts share the commonality that they are in the same social milieu and explore the complexities faced by migration to a foreign country and the misfortunes that arise due to cultural identity mishaps for the second-generation migrants. Lahiri and Lemer and MacCarter shed light on how the emotional relationships that migrants embark, changes their perspective towards the foreign culture.
The journeys that migrants take are often a means of escape for those who wish to leave their pasts behind, therefore forming a positive experience towards the concept of migrating. In The Namesake, Lahiri portrays Ashoke Ganguli as a man who wanted to walk “as far away as he could” from the place in which “he had nearly died” and through his journey to America, he is “born” a “third time”. His metaphorical rebirth in America demonstrates how his migration had granted him the opportunity to leave his traumatic past behind and enabled him to start a fresh. The communality that both texts share is an individual’s motivation to move from their homeland. For Ashoke, it was his individualistic desire to seek better opportunities for himself, and through his journey to America, he is able to lecture “before a class of American students”, symbolising his fulfilment of the American dream. In a similar manner, the editors of Joyful Strains remind readers that they “chose to move here” implying that their perspectives will differ from those “without the same freedom”. Readers are able to observe this through the author Akhil, in a similar way to Ashoke, establishes her love for Melbourne and her “first Cornetto, and this positive tone permeates her entire memoir…’moving to another country will make you more resourceful’. The similar motivations depicted in both texts demonstrates that, both first generation migrants of the text show how people with stronger language and social status in the environment often integrate easier than those who still have barriers. Both authors explore how migrants often face the crisis of belonging to a certain culture due to their accents. Moushumi makes an effort to adjust her accent to be one “just as American as [Gogol’s]”. These accents can be seen to segregate these individuals as they appear not only on the surface different but through their voices too. In a likewise fashion Flynn Irish shares the tribulation of having an accent which ‘frustrates’ him as it identifies him at as a foreigner. These accents can be seen to segregate these individuals as they appear not only on the surface different but through their voices too. Evidently, both authors convey the idea that an individual’s ability to create a positive attitude towards the concept of migrating is highly dependent on the reason for their migration and their language abilities, or else many complexities arise for these migrants.
The concept of assimilation is a “series of conscious and unconscious decisions about what you hold onto and what you let go of“, which ultimately has a subsequently effect on an individual’s migration experience. In the novel and anthology, the authors highlight that many migrants often experience many hardships and marginalisation because they migrate to environments that often challenge their own core values and beliefs, thus the social context these individuals find themselves reaffirm their sense of ‘otherness’ and influence their outlook towards migration as more of a negative experience to some extent. Ashima, who is forced to migrate for her husband, perceives migration to have “replaced [her old life] with [one] much more demanding and complicated.” Through feeling as if “nothing [was] normal”, Ashima can be identified by the audience as a dependent woman who willingly left her Bengali family for the sake of her husband, however unwillingly lived her new life imparted on her. Unlike Lahiri who chooses the American setting for her narrative Dmetri Kakmi’s text Night of the Living Wog is a memoir, therefore a reflection of pivotal moments in his life in Melbourne and Greece, yet the sense of being the ‘other’ is also explored as Kakmi arrives in Melbourne and is exposed to a culture that is unfamiliar. Both authors clearly suggest that the social context in which individuals find themselves has an alienating effect, but Joyful Strains highlights that racism in a society can lead to further estrangement and feelings of rejection. Lahiri explores how the challenges Ashima faces in maintaining her own traditions and rituals in America serve to alienate her from the dominant culture and even her children who distance themselves from her because their cultural context is dissimilar to hers. Whereas, in Kakmi’s memoir it is asserted that as he is used to living in a community where ‘everyone knew you as well as you knew them’ he reflects on the feelings of hostility he feels in Melbourne with ‘its jealously guarded backyard culture’. Despite their differing reasons for feeling a sense of dislocation, both authors are aiming to stress the idea that one’s ability to form a positive migration experience is a matter of how much the individual is willing to let go from their past in order to easily assimilate into the new environment.
The emotional journeys that individuals embark on through relationships assist in the ability to adapt to the new environment. In ‘The Namesake’, Gogol is caught between two immensely different worlds and it is through his relationships that he attempts to discover his identity. As a rebellious teen, he actively dates American women depicted through how he “falls in love with Maxine” and “her house”, symbolically demonstrating how Gogol attempts to connect with his American identity. However, as he matures, he “given into” his “parents’” wishes and marries Moushumi, a Bengali woman, elucidating his growth towards accepting his Bengali identity. What draws the line between the two texts is the outcome of these emotional journeys. Lahiri foreshadows the failure of Gogol’s relationship as she highlights how they had held a “wedding that neither [Gogol nor Moushumi] really want”. Similarly, Ali’s love for Sally and Dmitri’s ability to emulate heroes from the television into his life aided both these characters in the process of coming to terms with either homosexuality or overcoming the challenges faced with their migration experience. In essence, both authors are asserting that emotional journeys such as the ones that romantic relationships or relationships with tv characters provide can enable individuals to form a positive view towards their migration experience.
Both authors assert through their texts that migrants can be restrained to developing a positive point of view towards the migration experience if they lack basic language skills or don’t have any desires to migrate. The novel and memoirs demonstrate the challenges of being an outsider and why they are arisen, as well as the qualities that and individuals must have to have a more positive migration experience. Both authors novel and memoir illustrates the adversities one may face with cultural identity and migration, as well as underlining how they overcome these obstacles to form a sense of acceptance to the migration experience.