Understanding the book Namesake by Lahiri

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Namesake by Lahiri

Answer five of the prompts, and write a 4-6 sentence response for each prompt with claims and evidence.

Analyze the train as a symbol in the novel.

In The Namesake, Lahiri’s use of a train is symbolic. She uses two train accidents to deliver a message symbolically. The novel begins by showing Ashoke’s past. He barely survives in the train “He was pulled from the wreckage, placed on a stretcher, transported on another train to a hospital in Tatanagar” (18); ever since the incident, Ashoke still suffers severe trauma from trains. Another incident is when she was forced to forge her bags and discover them later to find comfort, which was awkward. Lahiri writes, “The following day the bags are returned, not a teaspoon missing” (42). The novel continues to show how a particular person committed suicide on the same train Gogol was. The use of train in the book is applied to remind the reader that life consists of constant and inevitable instances to move forward, which are not controllable by a person. At the final stages of the novel, Gogol met Ruth and had the chance to unveil Mosheim’s affair. Lahiri writes, “It had been on the train a year ago, that he’d learn of Moushumi’s affair” (282). Generally, Lahiri uses a train to represent movements, distances and traveling as critical aspects of life. Furthermore, the train depicts how life is never going to be one straight road but that there will be bumps along the way.

How does the novel explore identity issues related to immigration?

In The Namesake, Lahiri reveals identity issues facing immigrants; for instance, at the beginning of the novel, the immigration to the United States caused problems for the couple but mainly Ashima. Ashima, Ashoke, Google, and Maoshami feel lonely because they do not feel recognized by the host state. In the maternity ward, Ashimahe feels terrible loneliness because no one can comfort her of labor pains. Lahiri also addresses the language barrier concerns in immigration; for instance, while in the maternity ward, Ashima still speaks in the Bengali language despite being in the United States. This means that she is so deep-rooted to her own culture and traditions, as they feel alienated in the new country. Ashims says, “I’m saying I don’t want to raise Gogol alone in this country. It is not right, I want to go back” (33). Ashoke and Ashima wish their kids to study parental language since they are so much rooted in their culture; such that when they visited India, Ashima and Ashoke finally felt like they were at home, but Gogol and Sonia felt homesick. Lahiri wanted to show the effects of immigration on culture and lifestyle.

What purpose does Sonia serve in the story?

Sonia is the little sister and is born when Gogol enters school. As the younger sister, her parents raise her in a kind manner since they have learned from Gogol’s experiences. For instance, they had already gotten her a name even before she was born. Perhaps Lahiri uses Sonia to express the idea of civilizations of immigrations. Sonia greatly influenced the American culture in the family, who had long carried their Bengali culture in their back.

Further, Sonia’s parents learn very much from her, such as school instructions. Sonia is a true reflection of what the parents expected of Gogol; only that immigration issues were at hand. For example, after Ashoke passes away in the novel, she moves in with her mother to keep her company, but when Gogol informs her that he will change his name, she says, “You can’t do that… Because you can’t. Because you’re Gogol” (221). This shows Gogol’s struggle to find his identity while Sonia reminds him of his roots. Furthermore, at the end of the novel, Sonia and Ben arrive and greet Gogol. “Welcome home, Goggles” (284). This shows that Sonia is able to maintain a close relationship with her family despite her being ‘civilized.’ In the end, Lahiri is able to show the difference in characters between Gogol and Sonia.

How and why does Lahiri shift points of view in the story?

Throughout the novel, Lahiri shifts a third-person point of view to quencher a reader with all the information, characters, and events. The author uses Ashima and Ashoke’s perspective throughout the story but keeps a third-person point of view to be told more comprehensively. For example at the beginning of the novel begins with Ashima’s point of view before Gogol was born, “She wonders if she is the only Indian person in the hospital, but a gentle twitch of the baby reminds her that she is, technically speaking, not alone” (3). Lahiri then shifts the point of view to Ashoke when she was waiting for his son’s delivery. Lahiri writes, “On another floor of the hospital, in a waiting room, Ashoke hunches over a Boston Globe from a month ago…” (10). As Gogol grows up, Lahiri shifts the point of view to him since he is the protagonist of the story. For instance, Lahiri writes, “Gogol’s fourteenth birthday. Like most events in his life, it is another excuse for his parents to throw a party for his Bengali friends” (72). Shifting the perspective helped Lahiri provide a more broad context over the events and characters in the novel.

This novel, less than 300 pages long, spans more than 30 years. What techniques does the author use to compress time and move the story forward?

Lahiri chronologically organized her novel to allow the reader to understand the story more clearly. She uses many milestones or events usual in life that ordinary people experience to do so. Lahiri presents the novel as a true story of instances faced by people in their lives. For example, when Gogol was the firstborn. “Her baby, a boy, is born at five past five in the morning” (22). Of when he first walked or had the first time he went to school. Besides, his first sibling was born “In May his sister is born” (60). Giving the information in a chronological order enables a reader to understand even when Lahiri gives brief notes. This allows us to grow up with Gogol, allowing the story to move forward engagingly. This is because he is able to communicate with a reader gradually over the life of the characters, mainly Gogol, who Lahiri uses to deliver the central message of the novel. With this, she is able to compress a story that lasted 300 years into just 300 pages.


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