The Namesake: Conflict of Second-Generation Immigrants

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In this life, we all have a very special name, that was given to us at birth from our parents. This name has a spiritual meaning for our parents, and it will serve to distinguish us from each other. In the future when we are adults, our name may be to our liking or dislike. For example, in the novel, The Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, Gogol, the main character struggles through his own life to find his true identity. Due to his parents giving him a pet name, instead of a real name.

Gogol was named “Gogol”, because the name has a significant special meaning to his father Ashoke. Ashoke underwent a terrible train crash, almost taking his life,”He cannot thank the book; the book has perished, as he nearly did in scattered pieces. Instead of thanking God he thanks Gogol”(Lahiri 21). This tragedy influenced Ashoke to name his first son “Gogol”, the name of the Russian writer who has saved his life. Originally, Gogol was supposed to be named in a letter from his great-grandmother. There were some complications, the letter being sent one month prior to the birth, was never received. So Ashoke had no other choice but to name his son Gogol, a pet name.

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As time passes, Gogol ends up showing up to kindergarten, to fill out a registration form. Fully accustomed to his usual pet name, this quote shows how he's unfamiliar with no other name besides his very own, he states,”My parents want me to have another name in school.” “And what about you Gogol? His teacher states, do you want to be called by another name? After a pause, he shakes his head.”(Lahiri 59). As chapter 3 moves forward, Gogol gets ridiculed over his name, his classmates teasing him words like “Giggle” or “Gargle” ( Lahiri 67). Gogol progresses to being more self aware of his name, Nikolai Gogol. Starting to now question his unusual name and his true identity. These turn into the beginning of his unliking to his pet name.

Throughout the novel, Gogol's faced countless amounts of ridicules and embarrassments due to his name, these ridicules coming from peers and his friends. Embarrassments from having constant reminders of how abnormal his name is, “He hates that his name is both absurd and obscure, that it has nothing to do with who he is, that it is neither Indian nor American but all things Russian. He hates having to live with it, with a pet name turned good name, day after day, second after second” (Lahiri 76). He even wishes to disguise his name, after he says his name is “Unromantic”. Gogol seems to have gotten insecurities of his name once his classmates started to “court the girls”. His peers being the influence of his own securities. As his insecurities progress, it leads to hatred, from all the agony and challenges he's faced through his adolescence.

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