The Ganaguli family lifestyle can be very different than others in America. Particularly, the Ratliff family. When Gogol meets Maxine, she invites him to dinner and mentions that she lives with her parents. Gogol asks if her parents mind, she laughs and responds with, “Why on earth would they mind?” (Lahiri 129). This displays the different morals between the two families. Gogol’s parents tend to be strict about who he is with and who he dates. Especially Gogol’s mother, who tends to frequently ask if he has a girlfriend or not. While Maxine’s parents don’t seem to mind what she does. Furthermore, when Gogol eats dinner with Maxine and her parents, he notes that, “His own mother would never have served so few dishes to a guest… The table would have been lined with a row of serving bowls… But Lydia pays no attention to Gogol’s plate” (Lahiri 133). There is a noticeable difference in hospitality when it comes to the two families. Gogol’s mother would be scanning the guests to make sure everyone has enough to eat. She would also insist that the guests have seconds and thirds. While Lydia, Maxine’s mother, seems to barely even look at Gogol’s plate and doesn’t announce when she brings out more food.
Ashoke’s near death experience causes him to change and he thanks Gogol, a Russian writer for saving his life. When Ashima has the baby, they must give him a name, Ashoke remembers the incident but this time he feels different and he says, “‘Hello, Gogol,’ he whispers, leaning over his son’s haughty face, his tightly bundled body’” (Lahiri 28). This is one of the decisions that is affected in his life by the accident because if it didn’t happen, he might’ve not even cared about Gogol. This doesn’t seem to affect Ashima but it does affect Gogol later in his life. As he grows up, he is taunted by other kids and is insecure about it. This drives him to hate the name and despises when anyone says it. When he is older, he has finally had enough and changed his name to Nikhil. Furthermore, Ashoke decides to use a cane after about a year. So he decides to finish college and study abroad but “His siblings had pleaded and wept. His mother, speechless, had refused food for three days” (Lahiri 20). Since Ashoke went through the accident, he had changed his vision of his future. He became more determined to do something with his life. The fact that he took this opportunity had such a negative effect on his family.
When Ashima moves to America with Ashoke, it has a very negative affect on her. She is clearly not happy and misses her family so says, “I’m saying I don’t want to raise Gogol alone in this country. It’s not right. I want to go back” (Lahiri 33). This displays her feelings about America and her desire to go back to India and raise her child there. Furthermore, when Ashima talks about her friends, she mentions that, “A number of them live alone, as Ashima does now, because they are divorced” (Lahiri 162). This was most likely one of the effects of them moving to America. Yet this had a slightly positive affect on Ashima because she became more independent and actually went out and made some friends. When Ashima find out Ashoke is in the hospital, she “…feels a wave of sympathy for him, at the thought of him driving to the hospital alone. She misses him suddenly…” (Lahiri 164). This displays that Ashima still cared for him yet wasn’t in love with him.They could have had the chance to fall back in love but Ashoke unexpectedly dies of a heart attack.
In this novel, Gogol’s first serious relationship was with a girl named Ruth. They meet when Gogol is still in college and he is on a train to head home for Thanksgiving. Initially, the relationship is very intimate and Gogol, “…begins to meet her after her classes, remembering her schedule, looking up at the buildings and hovering casually under the archways” (Lahiri 113). This type of behavior persists for a couple months. However, Ruth travels to study at Oxford for her second semester. Gogol, says he doesn’t mind, but deep down it gives him a bad feeling. During that time, “He is lost without her. It sickens him to think of the physical distance between them…” (Lahiri 117). As he waits for her to return, Ruth takes an unexpected turn and ends up staying in Oxford so they decide to break up. Furthermore, his second relationship is with Maxine Ratliff. Gogol attends a party and Maxine instantly catches his eye. This relationship is very similar to the one with Ruth in the beginning, In contrast to his previous relationship, this lasts longer and, “Within six months he has keys to the Ratliffs’ house… He keeps a toothbrush and razor on her cluttered pedestal sink” (Lahiri 140). He is clearly happy with her and more comfortable in this relationship. A sudden turn takes place when Gogol’s father dies. He ends up staying close to his mother for a year, within that year, Gogol breaks up with Maxine. Finally, Gogol’s last relationship is with Moushimi, a close family friend. Originally, he didn’t care and, “He has no intention of calling Moushumi” (Lahiri 192). It is clear that he doesn’t want anything to do with her until he calls and actually meets with her. After his night with her, “He had not expected to enjoy himself, to be attracted to her in the least” (Lahiri 199). This goes on for several months and they get married. Gogol’s love for her persists for about another year until the honeymoon phase is over. Moushumi falls back into old habits and she calls an old friend, Dimitri. She has an affair and after Gogol finds out, and instantly leaves. The last time he sees her is “when she appeared one last time at his office, so that he could sign the divorce papers…” (Lahiri 283). This shows Gogol’s romantic pattern throughout his life. All of his relationships started great but all of them ended with a tragedy.
In the beginning of this novel, Ashima was very dependent on Ashoke. After she has a baby, she talks to Ashoke and says, “I’m saying hurry up and finish your degree” (Lahiri 33). She says this because in her mind, it isn’t right to raise her child in America. Since they are married, she must depend on Ashoke to finish his degree so they can go back to India. As Ashoke would go to work, “She would spend hours in the apartment, napping, sulking, rereading her same five Bengali novels on the bed” (Lahiri 35). She would lament all the time because she knew she couldn’t go out since they were in a new country. Being in a new country made Ashima more dependent than she originally was. However, she slowly develops throughout the novel. After many years, they get a divorce, but this is also when Ashima beings doing things herself. She starts at a library, “It is Ashima’s first job in America, the first since before she was married.” (Lahiri 162). Since the split, she realizes that she must do something with her life and must become independent. However, Ashoke still “pays all the bills, and rakes all the leaves on the lawns, and puts gas from the self-service station into her car” (Lahiri 163). Even though she has developed a sense of independence, she still needs assistance from Ashoke. At the end of the novel, after Ashoke’s death, she becomes her own person. In the novel, it states that “She has learned to do things on her own, and though she still wears saris… she is not the same Ashima who had once lived in Calcutta” (Lahiri 276). This displays her character development because when she had first moved to America, she depended on Ashoke to finish his degree so they could leave to India. She begins to develop after the divorce because she can’t rely on Ashoke anymore. Even after Ashoke’s death, she learns how to do things herself because her children are grown and she doesn’t have anyone to depend on.
One of the events that Lahiri uses to change the plot of the story would be Ashoke’s train accident. This event can be used to change Ashoke in different aspects of his life. For example, after the accident, “Instead of thanking God he thanks Gogol, the Russian writer who had saved his life…” (Lahiri 21). Ashoke actually worships Gogol and looks up to him. This event can be used to change the plot because this is the main reason Gogol is so relevant to Ashoke. So, this is also the reason he names his child Gogol. Additionally, the first night that Moushumi and Gogol meet had a huge impact on the plot. Within their whole lives, they have never paid attention to each other until that particular night. Once the night is over, as Gogol walks home, “He decides that it is her very familiarity that makes him curious about her…” (Lahiri 199). If Ashima never introduced Moushumi to Gogol, the plot would have been very different considering they got married. Moreover, if Gogol didn’t enjoy himself with her that night, they might have never gotten married. Ultimately, the death of Moushumi’s co worker led to a huge turn in the story. After her co workers death, Moushumi goes into her office to find a stapler but ends up finding an old friends resume, Dimitri Desjardins. After a week, she decides to call but, “She tells herself she’s calling an old friend. She tells herself the coincidence of finding his resume, of stumbling upon him this way, is too great, that anyone in her position would pick up the phone and call” (Lahiri 262). This would be the beginning of Ashima’s affair. If her co worker wouldn’t have passed, she wouldn’t have found Dimitri’s resume. So she wouldn’t even be thinking about him. Which would mean that Gogol and her wouldn’t get a divorce and would stay married through the end of the novel.
Gogol, Sonia, and Moushumi experience the same cultural dilemma due to the fact that both of their mothers wanted them to do something they didn’t have a passion for. For instance, when Moushumi was younger, her mother made her play the piano. During her time with Gogol she says, “I never wanted to learn in the first place. My mother had this fantasy. One of many” (Lahiri 193). This shows the pressure that was put on Moushumi, to do something she didn’t love. She only did it because her mother wanted to fulfill her fantasy. Gogol also experiences this type of behavior from his parents too. When he gets his first girlfriend, Gogol says that, “ His relationship with her is one accomplishment in his life about which they are not the least bit proud or pleased” (Lahiri 116). This goes to show that Gogol’s happiness isn’t his parents first priority. They make it obvious that they disapprove and tell him things to try and break them up. In comparison, Gogol and Moushumi are facing the same situations in a way. Both of their parents are trying to force them to do something they don’t want to do. Moushumi’s mother is forcing her to play the piano causing her to be miserable. While Gogol’s mother on the other hand, is trying to get him to break up with Ruth, as a result he gets frustrated and end up not listening to her or her advice
This novel has the title, The Namesake because namesake means for something to have the same name as another. This ties into the novel because when Ashima and Ashoke choose a name for the child, they name him Gogol. They must choose a name before they leave the hospital and Ashoke says, “‘Hello, Gogol,’, he whispers leaning over his son’s haughty face, his tightly bundled body”’ (Lahiri 28). We know automatically why Ashoke chooses this name. His train accident had influenced how he thought which affected future decisions, such as what name he would give his child. After his accident, the novel says that, “Instead of thanking God he thanks Gogol…” (Lahiri 21). He thanks Gogol because when there was a search time at the wreck they had almost missed him. However, when Ashoke was stuck, “He was still clutching a single page of “The Overcoat,” crumpled tightly in his first, and when he raised his hand the wad of paper dropped from his fingers” (Lahiri 18). As he dropped the piece of paper, a man saw him and he was saved. If he didn’t have the wad of paper from Gogol’s novel, he would’ve been left at the train. Now it is clear why Ashoke thanks Gogol instead of God. In conclusion, this all ties together because the namesake means for something to have the same name as another. In this case, the child that Ashima gives birth to has the same name as a Russian writer Nikolai Gogol. This happened due to Ashoke’s past experience in the train wreck.