Study Guide

The Namesake Dissatisfaction

By Jhumpa Lahiri

Dissatisfaction

Chapter 4
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

For by now, he's come to hate questions pertaining to his name, hates having constantly to explain. He hates having to tell people that it doesn't mean anything "in Indian." (4.9)

Gogol is unusually self-conscious about his name and how it marks him as "different." But it's just a name, right? Why does he let it make himself so unhappy?

Chapter 6
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

It is a meal he knows it has taken his mother over a day to prepare, and yet the amount of effort embarrasses him. (6.105)

When he is dating Maxine, Gogol is perhaps the most self-conscious about his Indian heritage, and really tries to distance himself from it. How could he be embarrassed about his mother after all that work? If anything, Ashima should be embarrassed by <em>his </em>behavior.

Chapter 7
Ashima Ganguli

Having been deprived of the company of her own parents upon moving to America, her children's independence, their need to keep their distance from her, is something she will never understand. (7.25)

Another source of unhappiness for Ashima is her children's desire for independence, particularly since she comes from a culture in which extended families are part of your everyday life. The more independent they become, the farther away they grow from their Bengali roots.

Chapter 8
Moushumi Mazoomdar

The shameful truth was that she was not involved, was in fact desperately lonely […] Sometimes she wondered if it was her horror of being married to someone she didn't love that had caused her, subconsciously, to shut herself off. (8.169)

As a young woman, Moushumi is unable to have relationships because of her fear of turning into her mother, a woman who entered an arranged marriage and didn't marry for love. She is afraid of the example that has been set for her by her culture.

Chapter 9
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

He doesn't feel jealous of her past per se. It's only that sometimes Gogol wonders whether he represents some sort of capitulation or defeat. (9.24)

Ouch. It's not a good sign if you even <em>suspect</em> that your wife associates you with giving up on life. No wonder they both seem so dissatisfied with their marriage.

Moushumi Mazoomdar

And yet the familiarity that had once drawn her to him has begun to keep her at bay. Though she knows it's not his fault, she can't help but associate him, at times, with a sense of resignation, with the very life she has resisted, has struggled so mightily to leave behind. (9.17)

Gogol's intuition isn't off base. We know that Moushumi really wanted to distance herself from her parents, and now, with Gogol, she resents the fact that her marriage is the perfect example of what her parents wanted for her.

Chapter 11
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

She accused him of nothing, but more and more he sensed her distance, her dissatisfaction, her distraction […] "Are you happy you married me?" he would ask. But the fact that he is even thinking of this question makes him afraid. (11.4)

Moushumi's unhappiness in their marriage is apparent in her total lack of enthusiasm. Notice that we don't even get to hear her answer to Gogol's question. That's not a very good sign, now is it?

Ashoke Ganguli

On more than one occasion he has come home from the university to find her morose, in bed, rereading her parents' letters.

Ashima's homesickness is a major source of unhappiness. Unlike Ashoke, who seems more comfortable with immigrating, Ashima is constantly comparing her life in the United States to her life in India. She's not unhappy because she doesn't fit in in America. She is sad because she grieves for the life she lost in India.

Ashima Ganguli

They are not willing to accept, to adjust, to settle for something less than their ideal of happiness. (12.3)

Ashima is thinking here of Gogol's divorce from Moushumi. Which brings up the question, does having an ideal of happiness actually cause unhappiness because it leads to disappointed hopes? Should characters learn to settle?

Ashima feels lonely suddenly, horribly, permanently alone, and briefly, turned away from the mirror, she sobs for her husband. She feels overwhelmed by the thought of the move she is about to make, to the city that was once home and is now in its own way foreign. (12.7)

While at the beginning of the novel Ashima cries for Calcutta, at the end of the novel she cries for her husband and their life together, signaling a shift in the way she thinks of home and happiness.

Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

A year later, the shock has worn off, but a sense of failure and shame persists, deep and abiding […] It's as if a building he'd been responsible for designing has collapsed for all to see. (12.15)

Gogol's failed marriage is described in architectural terms, which is fitting for a character who's an architect. The home metaphor also links Gogol and Moushumi's failed marriage to their vexed relationship to their family homes. Their marriage was doomed from the start because of where these two came from, not because of anything they did.