by Jhumpa Lahiri
Coming of Age, Family Drama
Prepare yourselves for an awesome revelation: In The Namesake, Gogol comes of age. That makes this novel a coming-of-age story. We know. We just blew your minds.
All kidding aside, this novel is a classic example of this particular genre. It zeroes in on one character, Gogol, from childhood to adulthood, and explores what it means to grow up Indian-American and learn the facts of life. We learn a lot about how Gogol's cultural background affects his childhood and his adolescence, and once he heads to college, we see how his cultural background also affects his romantic relationships. It's not an easy path, and there are absolutely some growing pains along the way. The novel ends with Gogol all grown up and in his thirties. Of course he's a bit of a late bloomer in that only now has he come to terms with his Indian-American identity.
It's a Family Affair
The Namesake is also a family drama that explores how cultural and generational differences can cause big conflicts within a family. It's Gogol's family ties that influence his path through life, no matter how much he tries to untie them. Ashima, Ashoke, Gogol, and Sonia each have different attitudes toward their Indian heritage and toward American popular culture, and these attitudes often clash. That makes The Namesake a family drama that explores how cultural and generational differences can cause big conflicts in a full house with somewhat rebellious children. After all, it's hard to know who's the boss when you're busy trying to figure out who you are in the first place.