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The Namesake

The Namesake

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Analysis: Plot Analysis

Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.

Initial Situation

It's a boy!

Ashoke and Ashima give birth to a healthy baby boy. All is well except for the fact that they don't have a name for him yet. Oops. Guess Gogol will have to do. Little do they know that everything that happens to Gogol in the future will seem to be a result of his name, which he ends up despising.

Conflict

Becoming Nikhil

Gogol decides to change his first name to Nikhil the summer before he heads off to Yale. That sounds like a great solution to his problems, except for the fact that it actually creates more conflict than it solves. He is Gogol with his family, but Nikhil to everybody he meets in his adult life. Navigating those two personae just may turn out to be trickier than he anticipates.

Complication

A Father's Death

Gogol seems to have completely embraced his Nikhil persona, and abandoned everything associated with his family. He's dating a gorgeous, rich white girl and avoiding his family whenever he can. But when his father dies, Gogol realizes how important his family is to him, and breaks up with Maxine. Maybe he made a mistake in abandoning them.

Climax

Marriage with Moushumi

Gogol marries Moushumi, and Indian girl. Again, it seems like the perfect solution to all his woes. He seems to have reconciled the two sides of his identity, and is ready to move forward and settle down.

Suspense

Something is Amiss in their Marital Bliss

As it turns out, Moushumi has some identity issues of her own, and two wrongs do not make a right. Just because they're both Bengali does not mean that Moushumi and Gogol love each other, and a year or so into their marriage, she grows dissatisfied and has an affair.

Denouement

Gogol the Divorcé

Gogol and Moushumi get divorced after she strays with Dimitri. Gogol is devastated, perhaps more because their marriage had symbolized the happy union of the two sides of his personality than because he loved her. At any rate, he is back to square one, romantically speaking.

Conclusion

Story Time

At Ashima's last Christmas party before her departure for India, Gogol finally begins to read the stories of Nikolai Gogol, his namesake. Is he coming to terms with his Bengali roots? Let's hope so.

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