The Namesake

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli Character Analysis

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 back in with Ashima to take care of her. She becomes engaged to Ben, a Jewish-Chinese journalist in Boston, and the two are planning a wedding in Calcutta at the end of the novel.

Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli Quotes in The Namesake

The The Namesake quotes below are all either spoken by Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli or refer to Sonali (Sonia) 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 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.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other The Namesake quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
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 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.  

Get the entire The Namesake LitChart as a printable PDF.
The namesake.pdf.medium

Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli Character Timeline in The Namesake

The timeline below shows where the character Sonali (Sonia) Ganguli appears in The Namesake. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...black hair. He gives his mother the drawing and she tells him the baby’s name: Sonali. His parents had prepared beforehand this time, with options for a boy or girl, and... (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
Over time, Sonali does develop a nickname—Sonia—which gives her links to Europe, Russia, and South America. As she... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...“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 parents’ tears... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...for guidance—and 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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...for ballpoint, 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... (full context)
Chapter 4
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...leave, Gogol opens their presents—dictionaries, calculators, sweaters, and a card made with Magic Markers from Sonia that reads “Happy Birthday Goggles,” her nickname for him. Most of the gifts, which do... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
It is Christmas Day when they take the plane, and Sonia still expects to see the tree when she comes downstairs, but there are only suitcases.... (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
...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, but their... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...relatives, the parents fitting in with their old lives while the children feel like outcasts. Sonia has read the books she brought dozens of times by the end of their stay.... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...architecture as they visit a succession of tombs. Later, on their way back to Calcutta, Sonia has an allergic reaction to jackfruit. In another compartment of the train, a man is... (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
When they return to Calcutta, both Gogol and Sonia fall terribly ill. Their relatives blame their discomfort on the air, the wind, the rice—these... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...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 please. In... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...is home, however, he is distracted, and misses his life at school. He watches as Sonia dies her jeans black, and sees her becoming a true American teenager, arguing with Ashima... (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
...next year Gogol’s parents know about Ruth, but they are not interested in meeting her. Sonia, who has her own secret boyfriend, is the only member of the family who goes... (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
...inability to accept Maxine as a potential daughter-in-law. She passes two pages of addresses for Sonia and Gogol, amazed by how many homes each has already had, but for them it... (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... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...complex. The apartment is sparse and simple, with a single picture of Gogol, Ashima, and Sonia on the refrigerator. He begins to dispose of the few items that are there, feeling... (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.... (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
...in the Bengali tradition, and how he had laughed at his father’s strange appearance, while Sonia, still a baby, had cried. Now Ashima has shampooed the vermillion from her hair’s part... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
...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 to see Gogol off at the... (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
...thing Ashoke has to a grave. Ashima’s mourning has caused her to age quickly, and Sonia now lives with and takes care of her. Gogol is enrolled in a course at... (full context)
Chapter 9
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
...of Ashoke’s, and Ashima is dressed up for the first time since her husband’s death. Sonia gives Gogol a birthday gift, a red flask with the initials “NG” on it, and... (full context)
Chapter 11
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
...the week before. Gogol and Moushumi had cooked in their apartment, and her parents, Ashima, Sonia, and Sonia’s boyfriend Ben joined them, all speaking in English for Ben’s sake. Seeing Sonia... (full context)
Chapter 12
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
One reason for moving is the marriage of Sonia to Ben, which is scheduled to take place in Calcutta next year. Ashima looks kindly... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Sonia and Ben arrive, and Sonia greets Gogol, saying, “Welcome home, Goggles.” They go to the... (full context)
The Indian Immigrant Experience Theme Icon
Family, Tradition, and Ritual Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...relied on to translate American customs, customs that she only knows because of Gogol and Sonia. Ben is overwhelmed by all of the new names, but Gogol reassures him that he... (full context)