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The Namesake

The Namesake

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli

Character Analysis

Sonia, Gogol's little sister, is born around the time that Gogol enters kindergarten. Right from the beginning, she reaps the benefits of her parents' experience with Gogol. When she's born, her parents are prepared with her first name because,

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)

Perhaps it's her lack of a pet name that makes her better suited to adapting to life in America. Even as a child, she seems more at ease with her Indian-American identity than Gogol, who always feels alienated because of his unusual first name. While he just cries as his annaprasan, Sonia reacts with zest:

She plays with the dirt they've dug up from the yard and threatens to put the dollar bill in her mouth. "This one," one of the guests remarks, "this one is the true American." (3.57)

As Sonia grows older, she has an easier time of it than Gogol. She is popular, and she also seems to manage to remain close to her family, even as they struggle with their Bengali identity. When Ashoke dies, she moves home to be with Ashima, leaving behind her life in San Francisco without much of a backward glance. In the end, her character provides an illuminating contrast to Gogol's. Where he is awkward and uncomfortable with his own identity, she is well adjusted. We guess that annaprasan is accurate after all.

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