The Namesake

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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 his parents’ culture and the world in which he lives. He comes to hate the name Gogol, embarrassed by its unique oddity. When he turns eighteen, before leaving for Yale, he legally changes his name to Nikhil – the ‘good name’ his parents had initially intended for him to be called after he began school as a kindergartener. He later becomes an architect in New York after earning a postgraduate degree at Columbia University. He has three important romantic relationships throughout the novel – with Ruth, Maxine, and then Moushumi – that mirror his development, as he rebels against, and then returns to, his family life and cultural heritage.

Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli Quotes in The Namesake

The The Namesake quotes below are all either spoken by Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli or refer to Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Houghton Mifflin edition of The Namesake published in 2003.
Chapter 2 Quotes

“Lucky boy,” Ashoke remarks, turning the beautifully sewn pages. “Only a few hours old and already the owner of books.” What a difference, he thinks, from the childhood he has known. Ashima thinks the same, though for different reasons. For as grateful as she feels for the company… these acquaintances are only substitutes for the people who really ought to be surrounding them. Without a single grandparent or parent or uncle or aunt at her side, the baby’s birth, like most everything else in America, feels somehow haphazard, only half true. As she strokes and suckles and studies her son, she can’t help but pity him. She has never known of a person entering the world so alone, so deprived.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu) (speaker), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, we see the major divide between Ashoke and Ashima in their attitude toward America, their new home as a young family. Family friends of the Gangulis have just presented the youngest member of this family, their firstborn son—who is still without a name—with a beautifully illustrated children's book. Ashoke, who has always loved literature, sees this as proof that his new son has been born into a land of prosperity and happiness, where anything can happen. He marvels at how different his son's first moments are from his own past, growing up without access to such luxuries.

While Ashoke celebrates this difference, Ashima is struck by a deep sadness to see everything that her son lacks in this new country. For Ashima, family is the most important thing in life, and to be born alone, without one's extended family, is a great tragedy. Without her family, Ashima is left floundering in the world, unable to function outside of the traditional family structures she knows so well. She has a sense of foreboding and worry for her son, who will grow up without any access to these structures. 

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Chapter 3 Quotes

But Gogol is attached to them. For reasons he cannot explain or necessarily understand, these ancient Puritan spirits, these very first immigrants to America, these bearers of unthinkable, obsolete names, have spoken to him, so much so that in spite of his mother’s disgust he refuses to throw them away.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli (speaker), Ashima Ganguli (Monu)
Related Symbols: Graves and Graveyards
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

Gogol has just returned from a class field trip to a Puritan graveyard, which was full of the odd names of early immigrants to America. Gogol took rubbings of these graves, much to the dismay of his mother, Ashima, who sees this act as disrespectful and has told him to throw them away. However, in an act of rebellion—one of his first—Gogol decides to keep the grave rubbings spite of his mother's wishes. 

Gogol identifies with the dead Puritans on two levels: first, as immigrants to America, a reminder that almost everyone here arrived from somewhere else, and second as the bearers of strange, now-unheard-of names like his own. Already Gogol is looking for a "namesake," and he finds an odd sense of kinship with these dead Puritans and their ancient names.

Chapter 4 Quotes

Ashima, now Monu, weeps with relief, and Ashoke, now Mithu, kisses his brothers on both cheeks, holds their heads in his hands. Gogol and Sonia know these people, but they do not feel close to them as their parents do. Within minutes, before their eyes Ashoke and Ashima slip into bolder, less complicated versions of themselves, their voices louder, their smiles wider, revealing a confidence that Gogol and Sonia never see on Pemberton Road. “I’m scared, Goggles,” Sonia whispers to her brother in English, seeking his hand and refusing to let go.

Related Characters: Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli (speaker), Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 81-82
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote describes the scene as the Ganguli family arrives in India for an extended visit. Here, the divide between the two immigrant generations within the family is clearly illustrated. For Ashima and Ashoke, who grew up in India, this is an intensely emotional, joyous homecoming that signals a return to the identity with which they feel most comfortable. The parents are transformed, shedding the worry and insecurity that comes with life as an immigrant in the United States, and embracing their extended family. This transformation is signaled in part by the recovery of their old pet names, Monu and Mithu, traditional Indian pet names that signal their close relationship to these family members, from whom they have been separated for so long, divorced from their former identities.

Gogol and Sonia, on the other hand, who were born in America, are frightened by what to them is a strange and foreign land, populated with strange people whose customs are not their own. They too share pet names that signal their closeness to one another—not the traditional Indian ones of their parents, but Americanized nicknames like “Goggles.” Already, within one generation, the children have become foreigners in the land of their parents.

Chapter 5 Quotes

There is only one complication: he doesn’t feel like Nikhil. Not yet. Part of the problem is that the people who now know him as Nikhil have no idea that he used to be Gogol. They know him only in the present, not at all in the past. But after eighteen years of Gogol, two months of Nikhil feel scant, inconsequential. At times he feels as if he’s cast himself in a play, acting the part of twins, indistinguishable to the naked eye yet fundamentally different.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote comes as Gogol—now Nikhil—begins to adapt to the new identity he has created for himself at Yale, rejecting the name he grew to despise as a teenager. Legally, his name is no longer Gogol, since he went through the process of changing it in court, rebelling against his parents’ wishes. What he is beginning to realize here, though, is that while he has changed his name, the parts of his identity that he wished to rebel against still haunt him. Changing his name was an attempt to form a new identity, but ultimately a superficial one. This new identity is further undermined by the fact that it is a sort of lie—he alone knows he has made this change, since his university friends have only known him as Nikhil. He feels like an impostor as a result of this secrecy, unable to reveal what had been a major part of his identity before arriving in this new community. Of course, the only person aware of this inner conflict is Nikhil himself.

This sense that Nikhil has that he is acting in a play as twins who are “indistinguishable to the naked eye yet fundamentally different” underlines how uncomfortable he feels "performing" what to him is a new and strange identity. It also suggests he is beginning to understand that there is something about identity that transcends name and appearance, and is recognizing that experience and tradition can be key components of one’s identity as well.

Chapter 6 Quotes

At times… he is conscious of the fact that his immersion in Maxine’s family is a betrayal of his own. It isn’t simply the fact that his parents don’t know about Maxine… it is his knowledge that apart from their affluence, Gerald and Lydia are secure in a way his parents will never be. He cannot imagine his parents sitting at Lydia and Gerald’s table, enjoying Lydia’s cooking, appreciating Gerald’s selection of wine. He cannot imagine them contributing to one of their dinner party conversations. And yet here he is, night after night, a welcome addition to the Ratliff’s universe, doing just that.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Maxine Ratliff, Lydia Ratliff, Gerald Ratliff
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:

This quote describes Gogol’s moments of inner conflict about the new home he has found for himself in New York, in his girlfriend’s townhouse with the sophisticated and elegant Ratliff family. Maxine’s parents, Gerald and Lydia, who are at the head of this new home, are opposite in every way from Gogol’s own parents—they are embedded in the American upper class, secure in their wealth and whiteness, openly affectionate with one another, and luxurious in their taste. Feeling so at home here, Gogol is aware of the immense distance that separates this lifestyle from the one he grew up with. He is fundamentally different from his parents, has had radically different life experiences than them, and can now enter a world that will never be theirs. This power is at once intoxicating and disorienting for Gogol, who has worked hard to distance himself from his roots, rebelling against his parents’ lifestyle and isolating himself in New York with Maxine. Yet now that he is successful in his rebellion, Gogol finds himself feeling guilty about his success.

Gogol's relationship with Maxine has also been linked from the start with his struggle to form an identity. Gogol—or Nikhil, now—has transformed himself since meeting her, changing his lifestyle to match hers and reveling in the new sense of home and belonging that she is able to give him, for a time. 

The family seems to possess every piece of the landscape, not only the house itself but every tree and blade of grass. Nothing is locked, not the main house, or the cabin that he and Maxine sleep in. Anyone could walk in. He thinks of the alarm system that now is installed in his parents’ house, wonders why they cannot relax about their physical surroundings in the same way. The Ratliffs own the moon that floats over the lake, and the sun and the clouds. It is a place that has been good to them, as much a part of them as a member of the family. The idea of returning year after year to a single place appeals to Gogol deeply.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Maxine Ratliff, Lydia Ratliff, Gerald Ratliff
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Gogol describes the Ratliff’s summer home, which strikes him as a sort of paradise on earth. What attracts Gogol so intensely to this place is its sense of permanence and security, the all-pervading certainty that comes, in his mind, with an ancestral home like this one and the wealth and class of the family that inhabits it. Gogol has never felt so entirely at home, since he has always been torn between two identities—the Indian heritage of his parents and the American culture he has grown up in. The Ratliff family’s identity is monolithic, by contrast, linked to this place by an ancient family burying ground that anchors them physically to the American landscape, within which they have thrived. It is the startling sense of ownership that comes with this security, so in contrast to his parents’ own petty worrying, that gives Gogol the impression that the entire forest belongs to the Ratliffs: they are at home here. Never having had a home like this, Gogol is entranced by what he sees, and the identity that this place represents is a major part of what motivates his romantic interest in Maxine. His choice to be here is a rebellion against his parents, and everything they represent.

He returns to bed, squeezing in beside Maxine’s warm, sleeping body, and drapes his arm around her narrow waist, fits his knees behind hers. Through the window he sees that dawn is creeping into the sky, only a handful of stars still visible, the shapes of the surrounding pines and cabins growing distinct. A bird begins to call. And then he remembers that his parents can’t possibly reach him: he has not given them the number, and the Ratliffs are unlisted. That here at Maxine’s side, in this cloistered wilderness, he is free.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Maxine Ratliff
Page Number: 158
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, we see Gogol at the peak of his sense of security with Maxine—a sense that will not last long, since a fateful phone call announcing his father’s death is on its way, despite Gogol's belief that here, at last, he is unreachable. The image of Gogol pressing his body into Maxine’s for comfort is a useful illustration of the way that he uses romantic love as a means of chasing security and a stable identity. The idyllic, peaceful imagery of nature gives a sense of serene beauty, in strict contrast to the angst and insecurity that Gogol has felt for much of his life. His coming here, and creating for himself a new life and a new home with Maxine, is a rebellion against the home that he grew up in. Here, at last, there is no way that that old life can reach him—or so he thinks—and no one who can remind him of his former identity as "Gogol"; to everyone in this "cloistered wilderness" he is finally only Nikhil. 

Chapter 7 Quotes

She passes over two pages filled only with the addresses of her daughter, and then her son. She has given birth to vagabonds. She is the keeper of all these names and numbers now, numbers she once knew by heart, numbers and addresses her children no longer remember.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, the novel returns to following Ashima’s perspective, as she writes out Christmas cards on behalf of the scattered members of her family, scanning through her address book and reflecting on her children’s nomadic lifestyles. Ashima is living alone for the first time in her life, separated from Ashoke, who received a fellowship to teach in Cleveland. Lonely at home, she is amazed at how comfortable her children have become—from her perspectiv— with their lack of any permanent home. There is a sense that Ashima feels that her children are strangers to her, insofar as this strange nation they grew up in gave them habits, sensibilities, and customs that she finds entirely foreign.

Nonetheless, Ashima has remained the reliable center point for her wandering children, serving as a beacon of tradition and family life, endeavoring to keep the family connected to its heritage and to one another. Her children take this service for granted at this point in their lives, but that won't remain the case forever. In a few moments Ashima will receive the fateful call, telling her that Ashoke has died, and then she will truly be the only keeper of the memories of her children, who will feel a new need to rediscover their first home as they mourn their father. 

Now, sitting together at the kitchen table at six-thirty every evening, the hour feeling more like midnight through the window, his father’s chair empty, this meatless meal is the only thing that makes sense. There is no question of skipping this meal; on the contrary, for ten evenings the three of them are strangely hungry, eager to taste the blandness on their plates.

Related Characters: Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli
Page Number: 180
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, we see the Ganguli family learning to live together without Ashoke, who has recently died. The remaining family members are eating their nightly meal, a traditional meatless and bland dish consumed after the death of a loved one. Gogol’s perspective leads the narrative again here, as the mourning protagonist notices a significant shift in his own attitude toward the Indian traditions he has scorned and discarded for so long. He now welcomes the comfort that this ritual provides, the connection that it gives him to his family, and to his father’s heritage. 

The family's mourning for Ashoke is intense, leading to days that feel immensely long (so that six-thirty is more like midnight) and empty. Their ritualized togetherness is a comfortable relief, an automatic exercise that links them together, when they have recently been scattered.

Chapter 8 Quotes

It is the photograph more than anything that draws Gogol back to the house again and again, and one day, stepping out of the bathroom on his way to bed and glancing at his father’s smiling face, he realizes that this is the closest thing his father has to a grave.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Related Symbols: Graves and Graveyards
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Gogol pauses before a photograph of his father, a physical reminder of this man who is no longer a physical part of Gogol’s life. Because, in accordance with Indian tradition, Ashoke’s body was cremated, this photograph—which received an anointment of oil and a garland of flowers during Ashoke’s funeral—is in fact the closest thing to a physical grave that exists for Gogol’s father. Ashoke was always the photographer in the family, eager to preserve the memory of their family vacations, and Gogol was a reluctant subject of these photos—now, however, he appreciates the concrete link this photo gives him to his father’s memory.

Gogol has always felt a distinct lack of anchor in his life, and has been fascinated by graveyards because of the clear, solid link to the past that they provide for family members and descendants of those buried within them. Although he cannot have a grave for Ashoke, this photo makes the Ganguli home in Massachusetts a site of family history, a sort of anchor that changes Gogol's relationship to his mother and his past. He is eager to hold on to this past, now that he has seen how it can fall away from him without warning.  

It strikes him that there is no term for what they once were to each other. Their parents were friends, not they. She is a family acquaintance but she is not family. Their contact until tonight has been artificial, imposed, something like his relationship to his cousins in India but lacking even the justification of blood ties. Until they’d met tonight, he had never seen her outside the context of her family, or she his. He decides that it is her very familiarity that makes him curious about her, and as he begins to walk west, to the subway, he wonders when he might see her again.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Moushumi Mazoomdar
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

Here we see the beginning of Gogol’s newest romantic interest after an early encounter with Moushumi. Gogol is now swinging in the opposite direction of his previous relationships, still searching for identity in his romantic life but now looking to connect again with his roots, rather than cut himself off from them as he had with Maxine. This new instinct seems to be a reaction to the death of his father, which was accompanied by a newfound interest in the traditions of his family and an anxiety that he was throwing away a major part of his identity by essentially abandoning his family for Maxine. 

Now, Gogol has done what would have been unthinkable for him at nearly any other point in his life—gone on a blind date arranged by his mother. This arrangement echoes the Indian tradition, and suggests that Gogol is ready now to listen to Ashima, whom he has been so embarrassed of since his teenage years. Moushumi and Gogol are linked by their Indian heritage (and their parents' friendships), but also by their shared heritage as first-generation Americans, who grew up with the same half-executed traditions and the same desire to escape from these remnants of their family's customs. 

Chapter 9 Quotes

“I had it engraved,” she says, and when he turns the flask over he sees the letters NG. He remembers poking his head into Sonia’s room years ago, telling her about his decision to change his name to Nikhil. She’d been thirteen or so, doing her homework on her bed. “You can’t do that,” she’d told him then, shaking her head, and when he’d asked her why not she’d simply said, “Because you can’t. Because you’re Gogol.”

Related Characters: Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli (speaker), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Sonia offers Gogol a wedding gift before his wedding to Moushumi: an engraved flask with his (chosen) initials, NG. This moment of togetherness demonstrates the extent to which Sonia has also grown over the years, coming to understand and empathize with her brother's struggle to form an identity. The idea that he could take control of his name, establishing his own identity, had seemed impossible to her as a young teen, but now Sonia is expressing her support for Google's decision to change his name to Nikhil all those years ago.

The flask is a distinctly American gift, too, given that both of the Ganguli siblings' parents abstain from alcohol. This illustrates the kinship in rebellion that connects Sonia and Gogol/Nikhil, a connection that reflects the strength and importance of family for the siblings even outside of the traditional Indian system, where Ashima and Ashoke's families lived together in a single home and were inseparable for life.  

He’d confessed to her that he still felt guilty at times for changing his name, more so now that his father was dead. And she’d assured him that it was understandable, that anyone in his place would have done the same. But now it’s become a joke to her. Suddenly he regrets having ever told Moushumi; he wonders whether she’ll proclaim the story of his father’s accident to the table as well. By morning, half the people in the room will have forgotten. It will be a tiny, odd fact about him, an anecdote, perhaps, for a future dinner party. This is what upsets him most.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Moushumi Mazoomdar
Page Number: 244
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, a rift grows between Gogol and Moushumi after she tells the story of his name change (from Gogol to Nikhil) to the room at a dinner party with a set of intellectual friends of hers that he despises. This is an emotional betrayal, from Gogol's perspective, since the story was an intensely private one, with a huge amount of significance for Gogol. Moushumi treats it like a funny aside to her friends, which leaves Gogol with the unshakeable feeling that she misunderstood its importance, or is belittling something that, for him, is a major part of his identity. He had believed that this conflicted relationship to his past and identity confusion was something that Moushumi, as a fellow first-generation American from similar circumstances, would understand. The disappointment and regret that Gogol feels in this moment might extend to his decision to marry Moushumi—it seems clear now that the two of them are different in many ways, and that his reasons for marrying her, in search of a part of his identity he thought he had lost, may not have been sufficient to keep them together.  

Chapter 10 Quotes

She believed that he would be incapable of hurting her as Graham had. After years of clandestine relationships, it felt refreshing to court in a fishbowl, to have the support of her parents from the very start, the inevitability of an unquestioned future, of marriage, drawing them along. And yet the familiarity that had once drawn her to him has begun to keep her at bay. Though she knows it’s not his fault, she can’t help but associate him, at times, with a sense of resignation, with the very life she has resisted, has struggled so mightily to leave behind.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Moushumi Mazoomdar
Page Number: 250
Explanation and Analysis:

In this chapter, Lahiri begins to follow Moushumi's perspective, and this quote reveals her growing dissatisfaction with Gogol, and the ways in which Moushumi's reasons for marrying him in the first place echo the rebellious, conflicting quest for an identity that Gogol regularly manifests in his own romantic choices. For years, Moushumi made every effort to rebel against the expectation that had been placed on her since she was only a young girl: that she would marry a suitable Indian man. Counterintuitively, it then seems that Moushumi's decision to marry Gogol was in some ways a rebellion against her own rebellious instincts, driven by fear and sadness after she was left on her wedding day by her previous fiance, Graham. Now, though, the lack of danger that had drawn her to Gogol, and his association with a stable identity from her past, is increasingly driving her away again. As Gogol's own relationship choices have shown, identity confusion renders finding meaningful love especially difficult. 

She wonders if she is the only woman in her family ever to have betrayed her husband, to have been unfaithful. This is what upsets her most to admit: that the affair causes her to feel strangely at peace, the complication of it calming her, structuring her day.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Moushumi Mazoomdar
Page Number: 266
Explanation and Analysis:
In this quote, Moushumi considers her feelings in the wake of an affair that she has struck up with an old flame of hers, Dimitri Desjardins. Oddly enough, this rebellious act—an act of betrayal, essentially—is comfortable for Moushumi, who is becoming faithful again to her own sense of identity as a rebellious, sensual, modern woman. In mourning after her failed wedding, Moushumi had then found Gogol, who was also in mourning, still recovering from the death of his father. For both of them, marriage became a means of trying on an identity they had previously rejected. Moushumi, though, comes to regret her choice, since her identity as an intellectual, cosmopolitan woman feels at odds with Gogol's, or at least with the return to a traditional Indian heritage that he represents for her. Instability and transgression, then, are key parts of Moushumi's identity, and so she returns to them with this affair in a way that feels almost like a homecoming. She is guilty, and thinks of her family's reaction with unease, but is only fueled on by these feelings, since they render her act all the more rebellious. 
Chapter 12 Quotes

And then the house will be occupied by strangers, and there will be no trace that they were ever there, no house to enter, no name in the telephone directory. Nothing to signify the years his family has lived here, no evidence of the effort, the achievement it had been. It’s hard to believe that his mother is really going, that for months she will be so far. He wonders how his parents had done it, leaving their respective families behind, seeing them so seldom, dwelling unconnected, in a perpetual state of expectation, of longing.

Related Characters: Ashoke Ganguli (Mithu), Ashima Ganguli (Monu), Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 281
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Gogol imagines the house he grew up in being passed along to a new family, now that his mother has made the decision to move back to India for six months of each year. The anchor that his father’s photograph had been in this place will be removed, and the house—such a major part of his past and present identity—will be transferred away as if it had never belonged to the Gangulis, with no remnant of their name to mark its history. Gogol now has a new appreciation for his parents’ struggle, as immigrants, to turn this house into a home, and a different kind of respect for them accompanies it. Now that he is losing his childhood home, he can finally understand how difficult it must have been for them to leave theirs and come here to America, sacrificing stability and comfort to live in the isolation of this new country. Gogol finally sees how important family and a family home are in life, forming the roots of a stable identity—and, ironically, it is in this moment that his roots are being removed. Still, his greater self-awareness about the importance of his roots and increasing reconciliation with his heritage suggests hope for his continued search for a meaningful identity.  

It is as if a building he’d been responsible for designing had collapsed for all to see. And yet he can’t really blame her. They had both acted on the same impulse, that was their mistake. They had both sought comfort in each other, in their shared world, perhaps for the sake of novelty, or out of fear that that world was slowly dying. Still, he wonders how he’s arrived at all this… His time with her seems like a permanent part of him that no longer has any relevance, or currency. As if that time were a name he’d ceased to use.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli, Moushumi Mazoomdar
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Gogol reflects on the end of his marriage to Moushumi. Their relationship collapses finally after he discovers her affair with Dimitri, and ends in a way that is deeply embarrassing for him, since their union had been celebrated so publicly by friends and family. He diagnoses the reasons behind the failure of their marriage here, recognizing that their reasons for marrying were fundamentally flawed; both of them sought stability and identity in the other, without having formed a stable identity for themselves first. It was a relationship built out of fear, nostalgia, and curiosity, rather than true love. Now that part of his life feels strangely and inexplicably distant from Gogol.

By describing this time as if it “were a name he’d ceased to use,” Gogol again underlines the significance of names—the various names that reflect a variety of distinct identities, formed in cooperation with the people who use them. Monu and Mithu, for instance, the Indian familial pet names of Ashoke and Ashima, only exist in the context of those characters' relationships to their families back home. Now that the context of Gogol's relationship to Moushumi has evaporated, their time together has no more meaning, since what meaning it had for him was formed in cooperation with her.

Without people in the world to call him Gogol, no matter how long he himself lives, Gogol Ganguli will, once and for all, vanish from the lips of loved ones, and so, cease to exist. Yet the thought of this eventual demise provides no sense of victory, no solace. It provides no solace at all.

Related Characters: Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:

In the final moments of Lahiri’s novel, Gogol reflects on the new phase of life that he is about to enter. In many ways, he has worked for years to reach this point; finally his hated first name, Gogol, will vanish from existence, since no one who still clings to its significance will remain in his life. The fact that Gogol—now Nikhil—links this ending of his name to the lips of his lost loved ones underlines the extent to which he now understands that names, and identities, are formed and take meaning not on their own but in cooperation with a community of people.

What would have been a victorious moment for the young Gogol, so desperate to escape his name, takes on a tragic character here. Gogol has gained a renewed appreciation for the different communities that he wished for so long to flee, and especially for his childhood, the traces of which are disappearing now that his father has died, his mother is leaving the country, and their home is being sold. The sadness that Gogol/Nikhil feels is a sign that he has grown up, so that rebellion is not the chief aim in his life. He then decides to read the book of Gogol’s stories that his father, Ashoke, gave him so long ago, finally making an effort to connect with a part of his identity that he had previously ignored.  

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Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli Character Timeline in The Namesake

The timeline below shows where the character Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli appears in The Namesake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...the room. Suddenly, Ashoke has an idea, and reaches out to his son, calling him Gogol for the first time. Ashima approves of the choice, aware of its importance for her... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Three days later, everyone has returned to work as usual, and Ashima is alone with Gogol for first time. She cries all day, feeling desperately alone. When she calls Ashoke to... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...son’s development, telling them that she and Ashoke are planning a trip to India after Gogol turns one. She does not tell them of their pediatrician’s warning that he will need... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
When Gogol has his first ear infection and they see his pet name on the prescription, Ashima... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
...brides, sharing recipes to approximate Indian dishes and discussing Indian politics, music, and movies. When Gogol is six months old, the community is large enough for a proper gathering in honor... (full context)
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Gogol has been decorated according to Indian tradition, with kohl and sandalwood paste. Ten traditional dishes... (full context)
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Gogol continues to grow, repeating words in two languages, as his parents prepare their first trip... (full context)
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...her the news Ashima feels instinctively that her grandmother has died. She begins to comfort Gogol, who has been awakened by the phone’s ring. When the phone is handed to her,... (full context)
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...no time to find a good name, they get an express passport with the name Gogol Ganguli. Before they leave, Ashima takes the stroller and a bag with the paintbrushes and... (full context)
Chapter 3
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When Ashima does leave the house, it is to wander around the university campus with Gogol, or to sell homemade samosas at a once-weekly bake sale with other professors’ wives. When... (full context)
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...crossing the ocean with a single suitcase each. They prepare the house, taking photographs of Gogol posing in each room to send back to India. (full context)
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They hang a painting by Ashima’s father in the living room. Gogol has his own room, filled with American toys bought at yard sales. Many of their... (full context)
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...ashtrays still sealed. They arrive at the beach when most families have already left, and Gogol digs in the sand or watches, rapt, as his father flies a kite, or his... (full context)
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The August that Gogol turns five, Ashima becomes pregnant again. Bedridden and nauseated once more, she spends much of... (full context)
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That September, of 1973, Gogol is driven to kindergarten for the first time by his father. He starts a week... (full context)
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...they know the other two Indian children at the school—but they do not. She asks Gogol how old she is, calling him by his new name, Nikhil, although she pronounces it... (full context)
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Gogol’s class is filled with children who go by nicknames—Andy, Sandy, Billy, Lizzy—and is very different... (full context)
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Gogol’s sister is born in May, and this time the labor is quick. Gogol is left... (full context)
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...nickname—Sonia—which gives her links to Europe, Russia, and South America. As she becomes more responsive, Gogol enjoys playing with her, and helps his mother to care for her. He entertains Sonia... (full context)
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...“Monu” and “Mithu”—pass away. They are left parentless within a decade of their arrival, and Gogol and Sonia are awoken by the news in the middle of night, embarrassed by their... (full context)
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...learn to roast turkey, even if it is spiced with Indian flavors. For Sonia and Gogol’s sake they take up the ceremonies of Easter, build snowmen, and celebrate Christmas in the... (full context)
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...buys packs of six Bic razors, and even removes his wristwatch. They allow Sonia and Gogol to fill their cart with American groceries, and once a week Ashima cooks an American... (full context)
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...movies when the Apu trilogy is playing, or to a Kathakali dance or sitar performance. Gogol is sent to Bengali language and culture lessons on Saturday in the home of one... (full context)
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Young Gogol has no problem with his name. He recognizes it in signs saying “Go Left, Go... (full context)
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Ashoke puts their family name in gold letters on their mailbox, and one morning Gogol sees that someone has vandalized it, changing it so that it reads GANGRENE. He is... (full context)
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One day, when Gogol is eleven, his name’s peculiarity is highlighted when the class takes a field trip, first... (full context)
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...refuses to hang them on the fridge, the first time she has done so with Gogol’s artwork, but he in turn refuses to throw them away. Gogol feels an attachment to... (full context)
Chapter 4
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It is now 1984, Gogol’s fourteenth birthday party. As usual the family is hosting a group of Bengali friends. Ashima... (full context)
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After the guests leave, Gogol opens their presents—dictionaries, calculators, sweaters, and a card made with Magic Markers from Sonia that... (full context)
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When he opens it, Gogol finds The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol, a special copy ordered from a small press... (full context)
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...growing up and beginning to resemble him and his wife. Ashoke begins to explain to Gogol why he feels a “special kinship” for Gogol (the writer), telling his son that the... (full context)
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...and so he and Ashima decide that the family will spend eight months in Calcutta. Gogol is dismayed—he doesn’t want to miss school, even though his parents point out he has... (full context)
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...hands in their two U.S. passports and two American ones, asking for two Hindu meals. Gogol is seated away from his family and orders a Bloody Mary secretly, tasting alcohol for... (full context)
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When they arrive, they are swallowed by the embraces of their relatives, whose special names Gogol and Sonia must take care to remember. Ashoke and Ashima feel emotional at the reunion,... (full context)
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...has read the books she brought dozens of times by the end of their stay. Gogol brought his sneakers, hoping to run, but finds it impossible in the streets of the... (full context)
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...are tourists from the West. They are all particularly struck by the Taj Mahal, which Gogol attempts to sketch, but cannot recreate to his satisfaction. He immerses himself in the guidebook,... (full context)
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When they return to Calcutta, both Gogol and Sonia fall terribly ill. Their relatives blame their discomfort on the air, the wind,... (full context)
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...first few days the lack of noise in their large home feels odd, but quickly Gogol and Sonia return to normal, eating peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, taking hot showers, and quarreling as they... (full context)
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When the day of the lecture comes, Gogol reluctantly copies down the biographical notes Mr. Lawson provides. When he goes into details of... (full context)
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Gogol does not date in high school, a fact that his parents never question—they have never... (full context)
Chapter 5
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Gogol has become convinced that he should change his name, as so many—immigrants, revolutionaries, actors, even... (full context)
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Gogol had decided to change his name a few months before, when he saw a quiz... (full context)
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Now, form in hand, Gogol appears before a judge to legalize the change. He is nervous, but carries his project... (full context)
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As Nikhil, he finds independence from his family—exploring new music, getting a fake ID, and taking classes... (full context)
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Every other weekend he takes the train home to his family, morphing back into Gogol. When he is home, however, he is distracted, and misses his life at school. He... (full context)
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On one crowded train ride home, Gogol meets a girl named Ruth, and the two of them talk the whole journey, discussing... (full context)
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All too soon they are apart for the winter holidays, and Gogol thinks of Ruth constantly. She had invited him to her house in Maine, but if... (full context)
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By the next year Gogol’s parents know about Ruth, but they are not interested in meeting her. Sonia, who has... (full context)
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One day Gogol attends a panel discussion about Indian novels written in English, since one of the panel... (full context)
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For Thanksgiving of senior year, Gogol takes the train up to Boston alone. Although he and Ruth spent the first few... (full context)
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In the driveway before they enter the house, Ashoke decides to tell Gogol about that accident, and the true origins of his name. His son is stunned, and... (full context)
Chapter 6
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It is 1994, and Gogol lives in New York now, having just graduated from the architecture program at Columbia. He... (full context)
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One night a draftsman from his firm, Evan, invites Gogol to a party. Gogol assumes it will be a large, anonymous affair, but when they... (full context)
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...minutes, looking carelessly alluring, and leads him into the grand kitchen and dining area, where Gogol meets her mother, Lydia. He is awestruck by her elegance and the beauty of the... (full context)
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Almost effortlessly, Gogol becomes integrated into their lives. He is in love with Maxine, and with her lifestyle—expensive,... (full context)
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Gogol soon makes a home of the Ratliffs’ house, running in the mornings with Gerald, taking... (full context)
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Gerald and Lydia leave for their annual summer trip to New Hampshire, leaving Maxine and Gogol alone in the hot New York house, which they quickly colonize, making love in every... (full context)
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...say goodbye to Ashoke before he leaves for a prestigious nine-month teaching fellowship in Ohio. Gogol is annoyed that she has called, at first lying and then admitting that he had... (full context)
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Gogol agrees that they will stop off at Pemberton Road for lunch on their way to... (full context)
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...rental car into the driveway so that it is not in the way of harm. Gogol is embarrassed by their fear of disaster and by the too-formal lunch they have prepared,... (full context)
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...house down a remote dirt road and find Gerald and Lydia, lounging with their books. Gogol and Maxine take up residence in a small, unfinished cabin outside the main house. Gogol... (full context)
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Gogol falls in love with the pattern of the days here, disconnected from the world. He... (full context)
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...when she was fourteen. He thinks of his life at fourteen, when he was still Gogol—he has told her about this name now, which for her is merely a cute and... (full context)
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They celebrate Gogol’s twenty-seventh birthday there, the first time he has not been with his parents on his... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...with the names of each of her children, her husband, and her own. She writes Gogol instead of Nikhil, even though she knows he would object. She addresses a card to... (full context)
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...and then finds her son’s number in the address book—under G for Ganguli and for Gogol. (full context)
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Sonia flies back from San Francisco to be with Ashima, while Gogol flies to Cleveland. Maxine had offered to accompany him, but he refused. He had not... (full context)
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Gogol drives his father’s abandoned rental car back to his empty apartment, saddened by the uniformity... (full context)
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Gogol calls home, but Sonia and Ashima are already asleep. He calls Maxine, who regrets not... (full context)
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The next morning, after disposing of the last few things, Gogol boards a flight to Boston, dreading the moment when he must face his mother and... (full context)
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They observe the traditional ten days of mourning, eating only rice and dal. Gogol remembers being annoyed by this custom as a child, but now these meals in their... (full context)
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...mortgage, driving to town to shop for groceries or to visit Bengali friends. In January, Gogol returns to New York while Sonia stays in Massachusetts with Ashima. The two women come... (full context)
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As the train hugs the coastline, Gogol remembers a past journey to Cape Cod, and walking with his father all the way... (full context)
Chapter 8
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It has been a year since Ashoke’s death. Gogol and Maxine are no longer together—the argument that ended their unraveling relationship had to do... (full context)
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Out for drinks with his classmates one night, Gogol begins talking with an architecture student named Bridget. She is married, and her husband is... (full context)
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Ashima has begun to ask questions about Gogol’s romantic situation, even suggesting that he patch things up with Maxine. Gogol knows that Ashima... (full context)
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...new name, and the fact that she was taught as a child to call him Gogol Dada, or cousin Gogol—a past link that makes them both feel a bit awkward. Moushumi... (full context)
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...leave, and then, spontaneously, to have dinner. They walk to a small French restaurant, where Gogol insists on paying the bill, and then he walks Moushumi home, surprised at how much... (full context)
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In the next few days, Gogol recalls images of Moushumi from years ago that he had forgotten—the books she always brought... (full context)
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A week later they have lunch, meeting at his work, where Gogol shows her around the office proudly. They go to an Italian restaurant he knows, and... (full context)
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They walk out into the cold New York winter. Moushumi sees Gogol shivering, and insists that they go to buy a hat. He enjoys the way she... (full context)
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The next weekend Gogol goes to Moushumi’s apartment for dinner, bringing a bunch of sunflowers. She looks for a... (full context)
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...comments in Bengali to avoid being overheard. Even as they get to know one another, Gogol feels he already knows her life—he can picture Moushumi’s house, the parties, the family dynamics,... (full context)
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Moushumi admits that Gogol is exactly the type of man she has avoided all her life. From a young... (full context)
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...she worked hard to catch up. She began to date again, intermittently—and then she met Gogol. (full context)
Chapter 9
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...parents invite close to 300 people, taking control of the planning of the wedding themselves. Gogol and Moushumi largely acquiesce as just punishment for having listened to their mothers and having... (full context)
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...is poured into a fire that the hotel’s management will not allow to be lit, Gogol reflects upon the courage of his parents, who never spoke until after they were married... (full context)
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As they both unwind in their hotel room afterward, Gogol remembers his engagement proposal. It was on Moushumi’s birthday, at an inn in the country,... (full context)
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...craving Indian food they trek out to Jackson Diner in Queens. Sometimes in the apartment Gogol finds remnants of Graham, like an inscription in a book of poetry, or a postcard.... (full context)
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...visit Paris together, where Moushumi is presenting an academic paper. The weather is gray, and Gogol feels acutely the eyes of passing men watching his wife. It is his first time... (full context)
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It is May, and Gogol and Moushumi are at a dinner party in Brooklyn, at the home of Moushumi’s hip... (full context)
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For some reason that Gogol cannot understand, the approval of these people is important to Moushumi, and he has noticed... (full context)
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...baby names—the names of Popes, nonsense names—and baby name books are passed around the table. Gogol feels his bond with Moushumi return for a moment, because neither of them will be... (full context)
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Returning downstairs, Gogol finds the name conversation still continuing, and sees that Moushumi is somewhat drunk. Suddenly she... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...notice that the narration seems to be taking on more of Moushumi’s perspective, referring to Gogol as Nikhil. Her parents call to wish the couple a happy first anniversary before they... (full context)
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...surprised by the instant attraction she felt. She liked that he’d changed his name from Gogol to Nikhil—it made him somehow new. But he does not remember the dress when she... (full context)
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...unsatisfying, and she feels too sober, her discomfort growing. She tries to hide this from Gogol (whom she thinks of as Nikhil), but he begins to lose patience. As they leave,... (full context)
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...unable at first to find it in the mess of books shared by her and Gogol. She finally finds it, and begins to reread it at every opportunity, reading in bed... (full context)
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...telling herself she is reconnecting with an old friend, but keeping it a secret from Gogol. They begin to see each other twice a week in his apartment, eating elaborately cooked... (full context)
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At home, Gogol suspects nothing. Moushumi is worried at first, but their nighttime routine of dinner, television, and... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Gogol wakes up late one morning alone in bed—Moushumi is away at a conference for the... (full context)
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As he works, he thinks of Thanksgiving dinner the week before. Gogol and Moushumi had cooked in their apartment, and her parents, Ashima, Sonia, and Sonia’s boyfriend... (full context)
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Inspired by the idea of planning a trip to Italy, Gogol buys Moushumi a guidebook and begins to walk home, frightened momentarily by a flock of... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...kindly on this marriage—Ben makes Sonia happy in a way that Moushumi never did with Gogol, a match she still feels guilty for encouraging. They are divorced now, not having felt... (full context)
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No one greets Gogol at the train, so he waits at the station, reflecting on his mother’s upcoming move,... (full context)
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Gogol and Moushumi were then trapped together on the train, and then at the Christmas celebration... (full context)
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Sonia and Ben arrive, and Sonia greets Gogol, saying, “Welcome home, Goggles.” They go to the house and assemble the artificial Christmas tree,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
The guests begin to arrive, chattering in Bengali and expressing their regret at Ashima’s departure. Gogol realizes that Ashima has been the force that gathers them all together for these occasions,... (full context)
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Gogol reflects that their life has been formed by a series of accidents—first Ashoke’s train accident,... (full context)
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Gogol takes the camera into his old room to load a new battery, and is struck... (full context)
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Gogol closes the door and sits down with the book, which has been saved as if... (full context)
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Gogol opens to the first story in the book, “The Overcoat.” Soon Ashima will come to... (full context)