Study Guide

The Namesake Home

By Jhumpa Lahiri

Home

Chapter 1
Ashima Ganguli

Ashima has been consuming this concoction throughout her pregnancy, a humble approximation of the snack sold for pennies on Calcutta sidewalks and on railway platforms throughout India, spilling from newspaper cones. (1.1)

Poor Ashima. She wants desperately to recreate Calcutta life in the United States, be she has to resort to Rice Krispies and Planter's nuts. No wonder the snack doesn't taste quite right.

Chapter 2
Ashima Ganguli

The apartment consists of three rooms all in a row without a corridor […] It is not at all what she had expected. Not at all like the houses in <em>Gone with the Wind </em>or <em>The Seven-Year-Itch</em>. (2.46).

For Ashima, America is not all it's cracked up to be. Can you blame her for being disappointed? Life as the wife of a graduate student is a humble one. She will not be living the Scarlett O'Hara life.

Somehow, this small miracle causes Ashima to feel connected to Cambridge in a way she has not previously thought possible. (2.74)

In the first couple of years in the United States, Ashima gradually warms to American life, particularly when she experiences random acts of kindness. When someone takes her shopping bags to the lost and found, it tells her that not everyone here is a mean stranger. There are nice folks, too.

They all come from Calcutta, and for this reason alone they are friends. (2.64)

Calcutta becomes a powerful bond for these émigrés, which holds them together even when they move apart and have families. Friendship is yet another way they can try to recreate their Calcutta homes over in the states.

Chapter 3

In the end, they decide on a shingled, two-story colonial in a recently built development, a house previously occupied by no one, erected on a quarter acre of land. […] The address is 67 Pemberton Road. (3.6-7)

The first home the Gangulis buy is in a suburb where they are one of the only Indian families. Still, owning property gives them a shot at feeling at home. Now they have a little corner of the world that they can make their own.

Chapter 4

Though they are home they are disconcerted by the space, by the uncompromising silence that surrounds them. They still feel somehow in transit, still disconnected from their lives, bound up in an alternate schedule, an intimacy only the four of them share. (4.40)

After they get back from India, the Gangulis are reminded of just how different their American life is from the one they might have had in India. America is <em>quiet </em>while India is boisterous, loud, and crowded. Where do you think they feel more at ease now?

Chapter 6
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

He is stunned by the house, a Greek Revival, admiring it for several minutes like a tourist before opening the gate. (6.12)

Part of Maxine's attraction for Gogol is her lavish family home, which is so different from the house at 67 Pemberton Road. One look at the Greek Revival, and you know this girl is loaded.

It is a different brand of hospitality from what he is used to; for though the Ratliffs are generous, they are people who do not go out of their way to accommodate others, assured, in his case correctly, that their life will appeal to him. (6.48)

The Ratliffs entertain differently from the Gangulis, who shower their guests with attention. Ashima bends over backwards to make sure her guests are comfortable, while the Ratliffs take a hands-off approach. But there is a hint of ego involved in the Ratliffs' entertaining style. They are confident that their guests will love their stay, even if the Ratliffs don't heed their every beck and call.

Chapter 7
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

Thinking of his father living here alone in these past three months, he feels the first threat of tears, but he knows that his father did not mind, that he was not offended by such things. (7.50)

Not much of a home, is it? Gogol is depressed by his father's temporary apartment in Ohio, because it's an empty, lonely place. But it was also the last place his father lived, and that's a hard fact for Gogol to swallow.

Chapter 10
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

And then the house will be occupied by strangers, and there will be no trace that they were ever there, no house to enter, no name in the telephone directory. Nothing to signify the years his family has lived here, no evidence of the effort, the achievement it had been. (10.11)

For most of the novel, Gogol avoids going home to his family's house because of his conflicted feelings about his Indian heritage. Now that it's about to disappear, he appreciates it for the first time. Is it too little too late?