The Namesake

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Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu)

a caring father to Gogol and Sonia, and husband to Ashima. Ashoke grew up in Calcutta. An avid bookworm, he especially loves Russian novels. His life is changed forever when, during a train(read full character analysis)

Ashima Ganguli (Monu)

mother to Gogol and Sonia, and wife to Ashoke. Ashima is the family member most attached to the traditions of India, and who is most homesick for her family. After her arranged marriage… (read full character analysis)

Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli

The story’s main protagonist, Gogol is the son of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli. Growing up in a suburban town in Massachusetts, with intermittent, long trips to Calcutta, Gogol quickly becomes conscious of the difference between… (read full character analysis)

Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli

Gogol’s younger sister, who calls him, affectionately, “Goggles.” She too struggles with the divide between her American friends and her Indian background, and moves to California for college. After their father dies, though, Sonia moves… (read full character analysis)

Moushumi Mazoomdar

The Bengali woman who marries Gogol, Moushumi was one of the children present at the many gatherings of Bengali friends in their childhood. She grew up in London, and had a British accent when… (read full character analysis)
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Maxine Ratliff

Gogol’s second significant girlfriend, a recent graduate from Barnard, where she studied art history. She lives with her parents in a beautiful apartment in New York. Gogol falls in love with her effortless beauty… (read full character analysis)


Gogol’s first girlfriend, an English major at Yale whom he meets on the train home to Boston. The year after she and Gogol start dating (and become nearly inseparable), she decides to study abroad for… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
A friendly nurse at the hospital where Gogol is born.
Dr. Ashley
The handsome doctor who delivers Gogol.
A friendly, portly Bengali businessman with whom Ashoke strikes up a conversation on the train that eventually crashes. He urges Ashoke to travel the world while he is still young and free.
Dr. Gupta
A post-doctoral fellow at M.I.T. and friend to the Ganguli family. He visits the hospital on the day that Gogol is born, and gives him an illustrated book of Mother Goose rhymes.
Dilip Nandi
A Bengali friend of the Gangulis, present at Gogol’s birth and at his annaprasan.
Maya Nandi
A Bengali friend of the Gangulis, Dilip’s wife, whom Gogol calls Maya Mashi, as if she were his aunt.
Mr. Wilcox
The man in charge of compiling birth certificates at the hospital where Gogol is born. His full name is Howard Wilcox III.
Alan Montgomery
A professor of sociology at Harvard who lives upstairs from the Gangulis at their first home in Cambridge with his wife and two children.
Judy Montgomery
Alan’s wife, she works at a women’s health collective a few days a week.
Ashima’s brother, who lives in Calcutta.
Candace Lapidus
The principal at the school where Gogol begins kindergarten.
Mr. Lawson
Gogol’s junior year English teacher, a cult figure among the students.
A girl that Gogol meets at a college party while he is still in high school. Kim is the first girl that Gogol has ever kissed, and the first person to whom he introduces himself as Nikhil.
Gogol’s distant cousin, who speaks on a panel at Yale about the experience of American-born Indians.
A draftsman at the architecture firm where Nikhil works in New York after graduating from Columbia.
Lydia Ratliff
Maxine’s mother. Gogol is enamored with her beauty and elegance. She is a curator of textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Gerald Ratliff
The father of Maxine, and a lawyer in the city. He is a cultured and elegant man.
Hank and Edith Ratliff
Maxine’s grandparents, who live on the lake in New Hampshire.
A married architecture student in the same review class as Gogol, with whom he has a physical relationship after breaking up with Maxine.
An investment banker, and Moushumi’s first fiancé, whom she breaks up with just before their wedding. They met in Paris, and then lived together in New York.
A friend of Moushumi’s, who attended Brown with her. She teaches film theory at the New School.
Astrid’s husband, a painter of small still life portraits. He is also an old friend of Graham.
An administrative assistant at NYU, thirty years old, who dies unexpectedly of an aneurysm one morning at the office.
Dimitri Desjardins
An old crush of Moushumi’s, he is an adjunct professor of German literature. He has an affair with her, ending her marriage to Gogol.
Ben is Sonia’s fiancé. He is half-Jewish, half-Chinese, an editor at the Boston Globe, and was raised in Newton, Massachusetts.