The Namesake

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Maxine Ratliff Character Analysis

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 and elegant, old money lifestyle. He is most entranced by the security of her family’s life, with their annual summer trips to the ancestral home in New Hampshire, where a family cemetery contains the graves of multiple generations of Ratliffs. She and Gogol break up after the death of his father, when he is pulled back toward his family and begins to feel that she is an outsider, refusing to allow her to accompany them to India for Ashoke’s funeral.

Maxine Ratliff Quotes in The Namesake

The The Namesake quotes below are all either spoken by Maxine Ratliff or refer to Maxine Ratliff. 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 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. 

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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. 

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Maxine Ratliff Character Timeline in The Namesake

The timeline below shows where the character Maxine Ratliff appears in The Namesake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 6
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...a few people are left in the Tribeca loft. Gogol meets a striking girl named Maxine Ratliff, who studied art history at Barnard, and they begin to flirt. The next morning... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...the house with a bottle of wine, he is stunned by its Greek Revival architecture. Maxine greets him at the door after a few minutes, looking carelessly alluring, and leads him... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Almost effortlessly, Gogol becomes integrated into their lives. He is in love with Maxine, and with her lifestyle—expensive, rhythmic, elegant. The biggest difference between them, he feels, is not... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...his life there is somehow a betrayal of his parents, who do not know about Maxine, and who would never be comfortable in a place like this one. (full context)
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...and asks his girlfriend’s name. She is confused when he says “Max,” his nickname for Maxine. “That’s a boy’s name,” she replies. (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...stop off at Pemberton Road for lunch on their way to New Hampshire. He warns Maxine that they will not be able to touch or kiss in front of his parents,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...embarrassed by their fear of disaster and by the too-formal lunch they have prepared, but Maxine is charming as ever. Ashima is pleasantly surprised to hear she lives with her parents,... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...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 has never... (full context)
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
On one canoe journey across the lake, Maxine confides that this is where she lost her virginity, when she was fourteen. He thinks... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...He remembers that his parents do not have his number—that here in the wilderness with Maxine, he is finally free. (full context)
Chapter 7
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...She addresses a card to each of her children, reflecting on her inability to accept Maxine as a potential daughter-in-law. She passes two pages of addresses for Sonia and Gogol, amazed... (full context)
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
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 heard the news for... (full context)
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
Gogol calls home, but Sonia and Ashima are already asleep. He calls Maxine, who regrets not having come with him. Gogol remembers that the last time he saw... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...gathering of Bengali friends which feels like so many other gatherings that have come before. Maxine drives up from New York, but feels out of place. She asks Gogol whether he... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...at the train station. It feels strange for him to leave, and to return to Maxine. A sharp turn in the tracks reminds him of the train accident that nearly killed... (full context)
Chapter 8
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
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 with him... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...to ask questions about Gogol’s romantic situation, even suggesting that he patch things up with Maxine. Gogol knows that Ashima hopes he will settle down soon, but he tries to keep... (full context)