Monday, October 12, 2015

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri Reading Response & Thoughts!!!!!!!!!!

The critic Michiko Kakutani’s assessment of The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri is fully justified through her validated arguments that the coming of age novel “is resonant in its exploration of what is acquired and lost by immigrants and their children in pursuit of the American Dream” (Kakutani). Kakutani suggests that strong connections with those who share similarities and a wider view of the world can be gained from immigration to the United States. As mentioned in the article, holiday celebrations with relatives quickly become holiday celebrations other fellow Bengalis with similar backgrounds. First generations, Moushumi and Gogol, are also able to bond over their similar experiences growing up that are hard to share with others who haven’t experienced the same. What is lost in the pursuit of the American Dream is the feeling of belonging. Kakutani mentions that “Rice Krispies, Planters peanuts and onions are mixed together to approximate a favorite Calcutta snack” (Kakutani). The key word here is approximate. An approximation can bring someone hints of happy memories, but never the entire experience, because it just simply isn’t the same. Towards the end of the novel, Lahiri writes that Ashima decides to spend six months each year in Calcutta. One of the reasons she wants to go back and spend that time there is to eat the food, experience parts of her old life that she heavily yearns for in the United States. Some aspects of the text that the review does not mention is that all of Gogol’s girlfriends documented in the book, other than Moushumi, are presumably white. Not every single girlfriend is proven to be white but it is presumable because of these women’s descriptions. These women are described to have light colored eyes with light colored hair, occasionally described with pale skin. Whether Gogol does it consciously or subconsciously, it seems though as if Gogol dates white women to stay far away from his Bengali roots that he is so ashamed of. The same goes towards Moushumi. Some point in the book, she even mentions that she never saw herself with a Bengali man. Also, adding on to what Kakutani wrote about Ashima’s feeling out of place with being foreign, Lahiri’s descriptions of Ashima and Ashoke bringing their own culture to the United States and feeling foreign throughout the book shows that immigrants can never truly immerse themselves and fit in with their new adopted culture. To fully immerse ourselves in a new culture means to erase the other culture living in us, which is something no one should want to do. We need to remember our roots, even reclaim them when needed, because that is what makes us individuals. Having roots and adopting bits of new culture shapes us into the great and interesting people we become.  


  1. Hi Elaine!
    I also read "The Namesake", and I love how you brought up the topic of Gogol's girlfriends. In my opinion, that is one of the most important topics in the book because it connects to the theme of Gogol straying from his heritage (which you mentioned). I couldn't agree with you more on your arguments in this post. Also, Comparing Moushumi and Gogol is something that I haven't really thought of much. It is a great connection that I am really interested in learning more about. Great job :)

  2. Hi Elaine and Naki!

    This thread made me think about my G block's discussion, and the interesting symbolism of Gogol's white girlfriends and his urge to Americanize himself. For example, along with pushing him to stray away from his heritage, his relationship with Maxine allowed Gogol to witness an individual who was comfortable truly being herself.

    Additionally, I can relate to Elaine's comment about Ashima and Ashoke finding comfort within community members who can relate to their culture. Specifically, when my mom reunites with friends from Chile who now live in America, she feels refreshed and rejuvenated after immersing herself once again back in her native culture.