There is hardly a person who has never come across the situation of being a stranger in an unfamiliar environment. Practically everyone has experienced this sense of anxiety and diffidence caused by a new atmosphere. One of the most vital problems revealed in the novel The Namesake written by Jhumpa Lahiri is the problem of cultural gap. Being the daughter of Indian immigrants, the author describes all problems and fears of a person who finds himself isolated from his motherland, his culture and relatives.
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Apart from challenges experienced by the first-generation immigrants, Lahiri also describes emotions of their children. The problems of the first-generations immigrants are obvious. Being connected with their culture, they come across new situations for them and sometimes do not know how to act. The typical example of such a situation is Gogols name given by his father in an unthinking moment in maternity clinic because of his ignorance of American laws. Moreover, there are many problems caused by cultural and generation gaps. Ashima can hardly imagine how to bring up her child without her familys support. Moreover, Ashima and her husband Ashoke are committed to their national traditions, and customs of America seem strange and sometimes even inadmissible for them.
Nevertheless, the problems of the second-generation immigrants are more complicated. Being born in a new land, they grow up across different cultures. On the one hand, they are influenced by existing society. On the other hand, their parents want them not to lose their national identity.
The typical representatives of such generation are Gogol and Moushumi. Gogols parents do their best to bring him up in accordance with Bengali traditions. They organize a rice ceremony after his birth and try to make him familiar with the customs of their culture. Nevertheless, the influence of new society is too strong. With the course of time, Gogol and his sister Sonya look like typical American teenagers. In his early childhood Gogol, do not want to be called Nikhil. In kindergarten, he chooses his original name. “He is afraid to be Nikhil, someone he doesnt know” (Lahiri 142). But the situation changes in the process of Gogols growing up. He becomes a typical American and his first name given by his parents begins to irritate him. He wants his name to sound in American manner.
It is possible to say that Gogol has self-actualized himself in America. He has received a good education and has become a successful architect. However, apart from his material welfare there is a feeling of dissatisfaction in his heart. The fact that Gogol has never read a book with novels of his great Russian namesake presented by his father is very symbolic. In spite of the fact that it is the name of a great Russian writer, it has been given by his parents and in such a case in means Gogols belonging to his native culture. Gogol comes to an understanding of this simple fact only at the end of the novel. Now he wants to be a pure American. Unlike his parents who make their acquaintances mainly with same immigrants, Gogol has many American friends. For them he is Nikhil. He does not want to explain them the meaning of his pet name.
Moushumi s desire to become a typical American is even more obvious. She is eager to choose her cultural identity by herself. Her behavior may be even called rebellious.
And it is far cry from their parents desires. Their parents want them to be true Indians and to save their national identity. This desire of their parents is the main reason of an unsuccessful marriage of Gogol and Moushumi. In spite of the fact that, they know each other since childhood Gogol can hardly imagine his romantic relationship with Moushimi. It is his mother who has asked Gogol to make a call to Moushumi.
Later on during their first meeting, Gogol asking Moushumi on a date says in jesting guise “So, should we make our parents happy and see each other again?” (Lahiri 142). This desire of their parents is quite natural. They want their children to be together just because they are of the same nation. The parents want their children to extend the family dynasty.
Nevertheless, from the very beginning this marriage has been doomed to failure. It must be admitted that they have something in common. First, both of them are the representatives of the second-generation immigrants. Both of them are of the same nation. Moushumi is the only person who knows Gogols pet name. But this is not enough to make their marriage successful. They seek for support from each other but this feeling of attraction is not love. So it is no wonder that as a result of Moushumi s adultery their marriage has broken up.
Gogol and Moushumi are the typical representatives of the second-generation immigrants. However, there is a definite difference between them. At the end of the novel, Gogol realizes his national identity. He reads the book presented him by Ashoke, understanding what it has meant for his father. Moushumi, on the contrary, tries to forget her Indian roots.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Print.