Jhumpa Lahiri: the Namesake Essay

Our group’s presentation is on Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake, and the movie made after it. The Namesake follows the lives of Gogol Ganguli and his parents, Ashima and Ashok as they find themselves and their culture while living in America. The Namesake allows the reader an inside perspective on Bengali culture. While working on our presentation, I found that I was able to relate to Gogol and his efforts to balance living in America while having a Bengali background.

The struggles of his parents gave me a new perspective on what immigrants today may face, and also what my great grandparents may have experienced when the came from Italy to America. The main thing I took away from the project was how Lahiri used the role of love in the story. Gogol and his parents showed continued respect and value for their Bengali culture while living in America. Gogol faced ignorance about his culture throughout his life, but especially while he was in school. Although I have never encountered situations as extreme or as often as Gogol, I was able to relate to how he felt.

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Being both Catholic and Italian American, many of my peers have made assumptions or jokes about my religion and culture. In The Namesake, Gogol desires to fit in with his peers, but at the same time wants to honor his culture and heritage. I can remember having similar thoughts while I was in high school when I would see my peers out doing things considered inappropriate according to by family and religion. The trials Ashima and Ashoke faced gave insight to what it may have been like when my great grandparents immigrated to America.

The Namesake gave me a greater respect for my ancestors, and also for other people who have immigrated to America. Through her characters, Lahiri showed that love is able overcome hardships and pull people through difficult times. She also demonstrated that a love for one’s heritage and culture is important, and it is something that should be passed down and retained through the generations. Ashima and Ashoke’s love for each other grew after their marriage and helped them to form a strong family bond. They passed on Bengali traditions and culture to their children, despite the fact that they had been born in America.

Through their parents, Gogol and his sister learned the importance of their customs and developed a pride in the Bengali culture. I enjoyed working with my group on this project. We met many times to discuss our plans and what we had learned from the text and movie. It was interesting to hear everyone’s individual thoughts and interpretations on The Namesake. Everyone contributed equally in the planning and execution of the project. The input of each member of the group helped to make our presentation well rounded and successful.


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