Analysis and comparison of identity theme
In “The namesake” novel, the writer discusses issues such as the conflict of cultures, the immigrant experience, the clashes of assimilation and the ties between generations. This novel takes the family of Ganguli from the Calcutta tradition-tied life through their burdened transformations into Americans. Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli settle down together in Cambridge after their arranged wedding. Ashoke, who is an engineer by training adapts carefully than Ashima, his wife who opposes all the American things. After the birth of their son, the duty of naming him deceives the irritating results of bringing the traditional ways to the modern world. Gogol Ganguli, who is named after a Russian writer by his Indian parents in remembrance of a calamity that happened years before, knows that he bears the burden of his legacy, as well as, his antic and odd name. Gogol staggers along the first generation trail, scattered with conflicting loyalties, humorous deviations, and struggling with love affairs. The writer defines the power of identity and prospects bestowed upon individuals by their parents, as well as, the means by which people slowly and sometimes painfully struggle as they come to define who they are (identity). The main theme in Lahiri’s ‘the namesake’ is name and identity.
This important identity is brought up at the beginning of the novel, in Chapter 1. This is when Ashima, Ashoke’s wife calls for her husband, while in the bathroom. Ashima does not call her husband by his name as this is not what women or wives from Bengali do (Lahiri 2). As per the traditions of Bengali, using one’s husband’s name is considered too intimate. Again, the theme of identity in ‘the namesake’ is also explained in the second Chapter. This is when the tradition of pet names of Bengali (daknam) and names regarded as good in Bengali (bhalonam) is explained (Lahiri 25-26). As per the traditions of Bengali, only close family unit uses the favorite name ‘daknam’ in the home’s privacy while ‘bhalonam’ is used in formal places such as places of occupation. Gogol is given a pet name by his parents as the parents wait for suggestions of the ‘good’ name from Ashima’s grandmother. However, the letter does not arrive from Calcutta (Lahiri 25).
In Chapter 3, the theme identity is important when Gogol starts school at the kindergarten. His parents want him to use ‘Nikhil’ at the kindergarten and Gogol at home. However, Gogol is very confused and does not want a new name (Lahiri 56-57). The writer brings out the idea that Gogol is scared to be named Nikhil, a person that he does not know. This is evidenced by the fact that Gogol relates a new name with a new character or identity. In fact, he is not disturbed by the fact that his name is of unusual nature until when he is eleven years old. This occurs on a class trip to a graveyard when he realizes that his name is one of its kind. At the graveyard, Gogol makes rubbings on names that he has never heard of earlier as he identifies them. At the time Gogol is fourteen, he hates his name and hates being questioned about it. Many and different names exist for Sonia and Gogol that remind them of their relatives in Calcutta. These names indicate whether they are connected on their father’s or their mother’s side, by blood or marriage.
During the college bash, Gogol is hesitant to introduce himself to a girl, Kim as Gogol. He introduces himself as Nikhil, and this gives him confidence to kiss Kim, although it really was not him who kissed Kim (Lahiri 96). Ashima has never called his husband’s name in his while she was in his presence. She signs his name in their Christmas cards. This builds a crack between his husband’s name and his identity. Even after Ashoke’s death, Ashima does not mention her husband’s name. At the bar, Moushumi is surprised whe Gogol introduces himself as Nikhil. Although she starts to refer to him as Nikhil, she still keeps in mind his first name, and this acts like a secret connection between them. The two of them are a cause of puzzlement for Americans. In Chapter 9, the theme of identity is exhibited by Donald, Astrid and the guests during the dinner party. This is during a discussion of naming Astrid’s child. Moushumi reveals that Nikhil was not named Nikhil, and this offends him (Lahiri 282).
America: The Racist Society)- Reed Ishmael
The theme of identity is also identified in the works of Reed (America: The Racist Society). This is discussed by explaining the diversity of cultures that are found in the United States. Although the writer praises the thought of America being the most international nation, he does not forget to mention the fat that most of the nations living in the country still identify with their cultures customs and traditions). The people living in the nations that are not Americans include people from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, Europe and South America. The author mentions that multiculturalism can, however, lead to unfortunate consequences. This is because when people have differences in customs and traditions; this can lead to disputes among them. Reed (209) discusses how different people affect multiculturalism in the country. This is what is referred to as identity of one’s culture. He, however, states that multiculturalism can be beneficial to people in different ways. Learning one’s identity is beneficial as people will be able to understand and respect one another no matter his or her identity. Reed (208) notes that if people use their identities wrongly, chaos may emerge in society. Reed, however, ignores the idea of racism and personal disputes among different cultures (Reed 210-212).
Globalization: The Super-Story- Thomas Friedman
In the works of Thomas Friedman (Globalization: The Super-Story), the writer gives the roots of multinational society, which links to globalization (Friedman 102). According to the writer, the issues of identity among different cultures exist in the United States despite the US nature of being a multinational country. According to Friedman (104), some people feel empowered and sanctioned to accuse other cultures because they feel angry.
The theme of identity is very important and has been discussed by many authors around the world. Individuals have their own cultures that they uphold and identify with. All the above discussed works speak on the importance of identity of individuals. The customs and traditions of cultures guide morals and behaviors of individuals in society. It is, therefore, important to understand and appreciate one’s identity as this will enable individuals live in peace and harmony. As Friedman and Reed note, time will come when racism will be completely eliminated from America. This means that of one’s identity will not be an issue in the state as people will be able to appreciate one another.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.
Reed, Ishmael. “America: The Multinational Society.” The Norton Mix: A Custom Publication.ed. Boston University. New York: W.W.Norton 2010. 207-212. Print
Friedman, Thomas. “Globalization: The Super-Story.” The Norton Mix: A Custom Publication.ed. Boston University. New York: W.W.Norton 2010. 101-105. Print
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