by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake Identity Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Gogol frowns, and his lower lip trembles. Only then, forced at six months to confront his destiny, does he begin to cry. (2.71)
At six months, Gogol is already refusing to participate in traditional Indian rituals. He's not ready to confront his destiny, and for much of the book, we wonder if he ever will be.
He is afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesn't know. Who doesn't know him […] It's a part of growing up, they tell him, of being a Bengali. (3.19)
In kindergarten, Gogol tries on a new, more formal name – and doesn't like it one bit, even though having a pet name and a formal name is Bengali custom. What's interesting here is that he thinks changing his name just might change his identity. He'll become a different person. But Gogol, it's just a name, right?
They've learned their lesson after Gogol. They've learned that schools in America will ignore parents' instructions and register a child under his pet name. The only way to avoid such confusion, they have concluded, is to do away with the pet name altogether, as many of their Bengali friends have done. (3.56)
Poor Gogol. As the first born, he's the guinea pig for Ashoke and Ashima. The lessons they learn from raising him prepare them for the challenges of raising their second child, who finds more success in navigating the struggle to find an in America as a Bengali.