by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake Theme of Dissatisfaction
Happiness is elusive for the characters in The Namesake. Often, the characters' discontent is caused by the difference between their dreams and the reality they live in. For some, like Ashima, the primary source of unhappiness is homesickness, as they constantly compare life in the United States to life back in India. For others, like Gogol, unhappiness stems from not fitting in, about the cultural differences that set them apart from everybody else. These characters feel isolated, and alienated from both Indian and mainstream American cultures. These feelings of alienation seep into their relationships with their family and their lovers and cause all kinds of dissatisfaction.
Questions About Dissatisfaction
- Which characters seem happy? Which characters are unhappy? What are they happy or unhappy about? What qualities distinguish the happy characters from the unhappy ones?
- What is Ashima's idea of happiness? What is Moushumi's? Gogol's? Ashoke's? Do you think any of the characters achieve their idea of happiness?
- What are some ways in which being either Indian or Indian-American causes unhappiness for the characters? Does being Indian or Indian-American ever bring a character happiness?
- Do you think Gogol is on the path to happiness at the end of the novel?
Chew on This
Cultural differences are the main cause of dissatisfaction for the characters in The Namesake.
Many characters are unhappy in The Namesake because their lives don't match up to their fantasies.