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The Components Of Identity In The Namesake By Lahiri

1865 words - 7 pages

All around the world people struggle with a sense of self-individualization, which is the internal battle each person has to face in order to discover ones true identity. The quest to find oneself is a difficult and lengthy endevor that can take a lifetime to accomplish. Some if not most people never reach a point where they can truly face who they truly are. In the Novel The Namesake by Lahiri
In The Namesake, identity is illustrated by intensely examining the importance of ones background, name and culture. The main characters in the story try to uncover the reasoning behind their lineage, which they belive will lead to discovering the answer destiny in life. Playing on this belief the Ganguli’s sustain the element of traditions with them and practices upon migrating to the United States. The decisions that the family makes ultimatly leads a situation in which their son finds it tough to integrate himself in society resulting in him to not be able to grasp onto his own identity. “He hates his name . . . that is has nothing to do with who he is, that it is neither Indian nor American but of all things Russian” (Lahiri 76). His self hatred based on something as uncontrollable as his name incumbers his search for identity.
The Namesake is populated by characters who's shows signs of themselves being lost when it comes to purpose and destiny. Many characters struggle because most of the characters feel the tug and pull of different cultures, dreams, and traditions.
At the beginning of Chapter 1 the theme of identity and one’s name is introduced. The names of Gogol’s parents: Ashima (“she who is limitless, without borders”) and Ashoke (“he who transcends grief”) were chosen with care according to Hindi customs. Their names drive their lives in a positive direction and, even in their hardest times, provide them with the strength and determination to persevere. When Ashima calls out for her husband from the bathroom she doesn't use his name when she calls for him, since "it's not the type of thing Bengali wives do." Their husbands' names are considered too intimate to be used. In older cultures where men are dominant it is not seen as respectful to use a husbands name.Ashima has never uttered Ashoke's name in his presence; the reader is reminded of this fact as she signs his name to their Christmas cards. It creates a rift between Ashoke's name and his identity, at least his identity to his wife. Even after Ashoke dies, as Ashima explains to their friends what happened to him, she refuses, "even in death, to utter her husband's name." She does not understand his identity as linked to his name.
In Chapter 2, the Bengali tradition of pet names, or daknam and "good" names, or bhalonam, is explained. Only close family uses the pet name in the privacy of the home, while the "good" name is used in formal situations like work. Ashima and Ashoke have to give their son a pet name as they wait for the "good" name suggestions to arrive from Ashima's...

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