Study Guide

The Namesake Society and Class

By Jhumpa Lahiri

Society and Class

Chapter 4
Moushumi Mazoomdar

"I detest American television," Moushumi eventually declares to everyone's delight, then wanders into the hallway to continue her reading. (4.2)

A little pretentious, isn't she? And she's only a kid at this point. Maybe Moushumi acts this way as a way to distance herself from her fellow Indians and Indian-Americans. She certainly stands out in this scene.

Chapter 5

He has no ABCD friends at college. He avoids them, for they remind him too much of the way his parents choose to live, befriending people not so much because they like them, but because of a past they happen to share. (5.64)

We learn in this passage that ABCD is a term that stands for "American-born confused deshi." But confused about what, exactly?

Chapter 6
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

Something tells him that none of this is for his benefit, that this is the way the Ratliffs eat every night. Gerald is a lawyer, and Lydia is a curator of textiles at the Met. They are at once satisfied and intrigued by his background, by his years at Yale and Columbia, his career as an architect, his Mediterranean looks. "You could be Italian," Lydia remarks at one point during the meal, regarding him in the candle's glow. (6.24)

Weirdly, Gerald and Lydia seem to appreciate Gogol as yet another ornament in their massive collection of fancy things There's something disturbing about the way Lydia appreciates his "Italian" looks, as if looking Indian wasn't somehow posh enough.

He has fallen the tiniest bit in love with Lydia and with the understated, unflustered way she entertains. He is always struck by these dinners: only a dozen or so guests sitting around the candlelit table, a carefully selected mix of painters, editors, academics, gallery owners, eating the meal course by course, talking intelligently until the evening's end. (6.54)

During his relationship with Maxine, Gogol is seduced by the way her family entertains: it's an elite, cultured, sophisticated lifestyle, in contrast to the way his parents indiscriminately collect Bengali friends just because they are Bengali. But really, which couple is shallower in the end?

Chapter 9
Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

He knows that the approval of these people means something to her, though what exactly he isn't sure. And yet, as much as Moushumi enjoys seeing Astrid and Donald, Gogol has recently begun to notice that she is gloomy in the aftermath, as if seeing them serves only to remind her that their own lives will never match up. (9.49)

While Gogol has gotten over his infatuation with the Ratliffs, Moushumi hasn't gotten over her love of Astrid and Donald and their lifestyle. This seems like just one more thing to add to our long list of reasons the two of them are growing apart.

Donald and Astrid are a languidly confident couple, a model, Gogol guesses, for how Moushumi would like their own lives to be […] Their decrees drive Gogol crazy. But Moushumi is loyal. She regularly goes out of her way, and thus out of their budget, to buy bread at that bakery, meat at that butcher. (9.45)

Donald and Astrid are basically younger versions of Gerald and Lydia. They are high-class couples who live lives of luxury and aren't afraid to admit it. Or flaunt it, for that matter.

Chapter 10
Astrid and Donald

"I just don't see you with some Indian guy," Astrid had said dismissively over salads at City Bakery. (10.3)

"Indian guy" seems to mean "uncool guy" to Lydia and Astrid; beneath their cool and chic exteriors, they have troubling attitudes about race.

Moushumi Mazoomdar

Moushumi wonders how long she will live her life with the trappings of studenthood in spite of the fact that she is a married woman […] It would have been different with Graham – he'd made more than enough money for both of them. (10.44)

Moushumi is definitely more interested in status than Gogol is. She still dreams of her ex's lifestyle. But why? What is it about her life that isn't good enough for her?

Nikhil/Gogol Ganguli

Later that night he is alone in his room, listening to side 3 of the White Album on his parents' cast-off RCA turntable. The album is a present from his American birthday party, given to him by one of his friends from school.

Possessions say a lot about characters. Here, Gogol's preference for the Beatles' White Album also indicates his preference for western culture. Russian short stories? No thanks. Pop music? Don't mind if he does.

Ashima Ganguli

There is a thrill to whittling down her possessions to little more than what she'd come with, to those three rooms in Cambridge in the middle of a winter's night. (12.6)

Ashima chucks all her possession as she begins her new lifestyle, spending equal time in India and America. It's exciting for her, and takes her back to her younger days as a newlywed in Cambridge, when she had nothing much but love for her husband and her soon-to-be-born son.