Study Guide

The Namesake Contrasting Regions: India, United States, Europe

By Jhumpa Lahiri

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Contrasting Regions: India, United States, Europe

India, America, Paris, Venice. The Namesake globetrots with the best of them. Each region is described in great detail, so much so that you might feel like you're reading a travel guide. In addition to giving us a sense of what life is like in each of these countries, each country also stands for different things to different characters – escape, home, freedom, failure. The list goes on.

For most of the Indian and Indian-American characters, India embodies tradition, custom, and heritage. To the children of Indian immigrants, though, their parents' homeland often appears backward and unfamiliar. The United States is an uneasy no-man's land for the Indian and Indian-American characters, since their lives are a patchwork of both American and Indian customs. Finally, Europe offers complete break from both Indian and American identities, a place where characters can totally remake themselves and cut their ties to the past.

Questions About Contrasting Regions: India, United States, Europe

  1. How do different characters experience the same place? For example, how is the Ratliffs' Manhattan different from the one the Gangulis visit on their family vacation turned shopping spree?
  2. Do characters' attitudes toward places change over the course of the novel? For example, does Gogol's opinion of India change? Or Ashima's opinion of America?
  3. How is India different from the United States? What are the characters' (even the ones who haven't actually been there) attitudes toward India?
  4. What makes Europe different from America, and India, too? How do characters feel when they are in Paris, or Venice? Is there a difference between Gogol's and Moushumi's European experiences?

Chew on This

The different regions that the characters live in point to their social and cultural differences, from the quiet suburb where the Gangulis live to the affluent lifestyle of the Ratliffs'.

Europe is a place where characters such as Moushumi can escape from their Indian-American upbringing. That escape is impossible in India and America.

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