While flipping through some of the most read books on my shelf, I came across Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, a realistic fiction novel I last read in high school. It’s a story about Gogol, a young man and son of Indian immigrants, who struggles to find himself and his identity as he experiences life, relationships, and heartbreak in the states. It’s also a story that resonated with me, as it organically brought to light the intricacies of life as an Indian-American, growing up amidst two vastly different and often conflicting cultures. Thorough character analysis revealed much about the impact of biculturalism on an individual like Gogol; below is the conclusion of a reflection I wrote in high school about how Gogol’s struggle influences his insecurities and seemingly submissive nature in many of his interactions, experiences shared by many from similar backgrounds.
“Gogol’s vulnerability in his relationships is derived from his inability to accept his Bengali ancestry when he is brought up in a more “appealing” American environment. Lahiri repeatedly juxtaposes culturally distinct/contrasting behaviors and uses diction to emphasize Gogol’s individual perception to divulge his internal conflict. The mental barrier Gogol saddles provides reason for his repeated avoidance of his family, his conformist mannerisms, and his subconscious self-deprecation. Only toward the end of the novel when he begins to understand the excessively malleable and self-abasing nature he displays in his relationships does his mind become undivided between two cultures.”
Stories often tie us to certain characters, and the more we read, the more familiarity and even nostalgia we feel. This novel accomplished just that as I picked it up again almost three years later. With the spring semester at an end, I see myself returning to hours of reading, considerably one of the most pleasurable pastimes for my summer fun self. So as I settle in and start compiling a new list of books to devour, I anticipate meeting some unabashedly complex and perfectly imperfect characters to understand and grow alongside.