The Namesake Chapters 9-12
After a month, I have finally finished reading The Namesake! I have to say, it is personally one of my favorite books read so far in an English class. I even skipped Tae Kwon Do class last week to read some of the last chapters because I was so glued to the story! Don’t mistake my enthusiasm, though. The last chapters of the book aren’t super exciting or anything (just like the rest of the novel) but it did pick up it’s pace. I mainly enjoyed because of the literary devices that the author Lahiri used to further prove the recurring theme of changing views. In this section, the literary devices were much more apparent and I wasn’t scrambling to find pieces to analyze. The story had a nice flow and it’s use of repetition helped me make a lot of connections.
Through the use of symbols, repetition, and point of view, Jhumpa Lahiri developed a theory on changing views: one will come to despise a quality or object they held dear at one point in their past.
Before going too much into the analysis, I will begin by breaking down the last few chapters to give you a better idea of what happened. Moushumi and Gogol begin to date more seriously and end up getting married. Moushumi now teaches at NYU after completing the last segment of her PHD. One day, upon arriving at her office, she finds that her secretary has passed away from an aneurysm. Feeling guilty that the secretary is not there to complete her tasks, Moushumi begins to sort her files for her when she stumbles upon a resume with a familiar name on it: a boy she had briefly dated years before when she was still in high school. His name sparks in interest, and she decides to call him. Shortly after that, they begin to have an affair. On their way to Ashima’s for Christmas, Moushumi admits to Gogol of the affair she’d been having, and they get a divorce shortly after. After Ashoke’s death, Ashima decides that she will no longer be living in one place. She will spend 6 months a year in Calcutta with her family, and the other half with either Sonia or Gogol in America. She throws a last party before moving out and (obviously) invites Gogol. He tours his old room and finds the novel that his father had gifted to him years before: The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol. He sits on his bed and begins reading. The end.
When Gogol and Moushumi are married and living together, Gogol discovers the dress she was going to wear when she was going to get married to her ex-fiancee Graham. When he confronts her about it, Moushumi explains:
” “Oh that. […] with a shrug. “I keep meaning to have it dyed.” ” (Lahiri, 230)
I believe that the old wedding dress symbolizes Graham, a man Moushumi loved so much that she believed she was going to marry him. However, that is a thing of the past. Now, that dress only holds heartbreak and sad memories. The dress that she was going to walk down the aisle in, that was so important to her had become nothing but a chore: an old dress she has to dye. The dress helps further Lahiri’s idea of views and how they change over time, as Moushumi’s valuable wedding dress became a simple dress she needed to recolor.
It made a lot of sense for author Lahiri to use a recurring concept (motif) to further the theme of changing views. As in the novel, Gogol’s view of his wife changes and she is seen under a negative light as time goes by, portraying Gogol’s change in attitude about a how he felt about Moushumi.
To begin with, when the couple first moved in together in New York City, they had begun attending weekend parties with Moushumi’s friends.
“In the beginnning these occastions hadn’t been quite so excruciating. When Moushumi had first introduced him to her corwd he and she would sit with their arms around each other, their fellow guests a footnote to their own ongoing conversation.” (Lahiri, 237)
..is how Gogol initially describes attending these events. However, after a while he explains that Moushumi’s devotion to these friends puzzled her. (Lahiri, 237). Gogol had originally enjoyed attending these social events with Moushumi but as time passed by, he became more and more bored and began to resent these reunions. While still in his thoughts, Gogol also explains that
“[Moushumi’s] smoking hadn’t bothered him initially. He liked it. […] But therese days the stale smell of it […] slightly [disgusted] him.” (Lahiri, 237)
Lahiri develops a simple pattern: things that one used found the most endearing in their significant other became their pet peeves about them. The author develops her idea more evidently in the next quote when Moushumi begins to question her whole relationship with Gogol and explains that:
“The familiarity that had once drawn her to him has begun to keep her at bay.” (Lahiri, 250)
In the last few chapters leading up to Gogol and Moushumi’s divorce, the author consistently uses repetition to portray that the qualities that Gogol and Moushumi found in each other had begun to tear their relationship apart. To demonstrate her theme even more, Lahiri also divorces the couple: showing that they had come to despise their relationship and each other, to a point that they had to be separated from it.
The motif that Lahiri repeats in this part of the novel, which is the concept that one will eventually lose affection for things that they appreciate, is a strong tool to further understand under which circumstances the theme can be applied to. Yes of course, a theme has to be a statement that can apply to everything, but it helps that the author demonstrates this theme playing out in a real-life situation in order to give the reader a new perspective.
Point of view:
Finally, due to the use of the third omniscient point of view, Lahiri is able to show how characters other than Gogol and Moushumi develop throughout the story as she can describe how they feel at any moment. Ashima’s norms of a marriage grow and change throughout the story, and the contrast provided by her original and final view validate once again, the main theme of this section of the novel.
Before Gogol and Moushumi begin dating, Ashima discusses of Gogol’s future plans regarding settling down, getting married, etc. Gogol is not in a rush, but Ashima tells him that when she was his age, she was already celebrating her tenth wedding anniversary, (Lahiri, 191) suggesting that she believes in long-lasting marriages. However, towards the end of the book, after Gogol announces his break-up, Ashima thinks to herself
“Fortunately they [Gogol and Moushumi] have not considered it their duty to stay married, as the Bengali of Ashoke and Ashima’s generation do.” (Lahiri, 276)
Not only does Ashima’s expectations of marriages alter after time and seeing Gogl and Moushumi’s relationship unravel, the idea itself of marriage becomes less important. As Ashima and Ashoke belong to the generation of the past, they still hold on to their values dearly regarding marriages. As for Gogol, who belongs in the generation of the future, he comes to oppose his parents’ views once he gets a divorce, demonstrating that the change in views can also occur through longer periods of time and through multiple characters and generations as well.
Although the last chapters of the novel had been the ones where I felt the less connected to the characters, it is the section of the book that I have enjoyed reading the most. The analysis I was able to make with the literary devices provided has deepened my understanding of the concepts that can be both applied to the novel as well as real life. I am very fond of this novel and would genuinely recommend it to a friend who wanted a light read, as I believe this book could be finished in a few days. I’d give it a rating out 8/10 mainly because it lacks strong plot in the first few chapters and it a bit confusing at time with all of the flashbacks. Overall, I still really like it though. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog series on the novel The Namesake as much as I have writing it.
I’ll see you soon when I start Gatsby!