by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Namesake Theme of Love
Ah, romance. The Namesake is full of it, even if some of it is a bit dysfunctional. We see everything from one-night stands to steadfast marriages, and Gogol alone runs the gamut. We see love gone right and love gone terribly wrong. When it does go wrong, it usually has to do with the cultural identity issues of the romantic partners. Their ethnic identities do not seem to matter so much as their attitudes towards those identities. How each character feels about his or her identity as an Indian, American, or Indian-American affects their romantic decision-making. Gogol's love choices in particular often reflect his own love-hate relationship with his Indian heritage, while other characters who are more at ease in their Indian-American identities (such as his sister, Sonia) seem to have better luck in love.
Questions About Love
- Who in the novel do you think has the most success in love? Which relationship seems like the most successful one, and why does it seem that way?
- Gogol seems pretty unlucky in love if we do say so ourselves (and we do). What makes him so unlucky? Does he have bad taste in women, or is the problem closer to home?
- What goes wrong with Gogol and Maxine? Could that relationship have been salvaged?
- Does Ashoke and Ashima's relationship succeed because they were set up by her mother, or in spite of that fact? Or do the two have nothing to do with each other at all?
Chew on This
The lasting relationships in the novel endure because of mutual respect, rather than sexual attraction or cultural similarities.
Gogol and Moushumi's marriage was doomed from the start, because their backgrounds are too similar.