Essay on Lahiri's the Namesake

678 Words Apr 20th, 2013 3 Pages
Anna Mantzaris
English 1B
08 March 2013
Gogol Versus Nikhil Gogol grapples with his name throughout the majority of the novel, yet this tension was in the makings even before his birth. Ashoke and Ashima being immigrants set Gogol up to live in two different cultures, American and Bengali. Many children of immigrants may feel like Gogol, having one foot in each world. Gogol framed his struggle with cultural identity through something tangible, his name. In Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake, Gogol’s struggle with cultural identity is exposed most greatly by the name others call him and his reaction to it. On Gogol’s first day of school, he gets his first taste of the cultural tension that his name and “good name” generate in
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The reader is convinced that Gogol has had many experiences of his name being said with hesitation and lack of ease that normal American names are pronounced with. Gogol must often compare himself to his peers via how teachers and other authorities handle his unique name. Furthermore, Gogol himself is consumed with doubt in regards to his name, what it means, and how it ties him to his heritage in a way he in unsure how to accept. However pleased Gogol may have been with Mr. Lawson’s approach, everything changes when the class reads “The Overcoat” by Nikolai Gogol. “With growing dread and a feeling of slight nausea, he watches as Mr. Lawson distributes the books...the sight of it [“Gogol”] printed in capital letters on the crinkly page upsets him viscerally” (89). Gogol wants nothing to do with his name at this point, even the book it is printed in is “particularly battered, the corner blunted, the cover spotted as if by a whitish mold,” (89). The confusion Gogol associates with his own name infects him and things around him, just like the “warmth [that] spreads from the back of Gogol’s neck to his cheeks and his ears,” (91). The rest of his classmates, “begin to moan in unison,” (92), and Gogol “feels betrayed,” (91). Gogol takes the class’s negative reaction to the Russian author’s biographical information as a personal assault. It reinforces his rejection to his own name as “each time the name
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