The Namesake

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Graves and Graveyards Symbol Analysis

Graves and Graveyards Symbol Icon
In a few moments in the novel, Gogol thinks with longing of the idea of a grave—a place that will bear his legacy into the future, and give him or his family a permanent physical anchor in space. In reality, he knows they will never have such a grave, since in the Hindu tradition their bodies will be cremated. Gogol is first struck by this desire on a fieldtrip to a graveyard of early American settlers, whose odd names give him a sense of kinship with these early immigrants. The feeling reoccurs when he sees the Ratliff’s family graveyard and pictures Maxine returning to this place to bury her parents.

Graves and Graveyards Quotes in The Namesake

The The Namesake quotes below all refer to the symbol of Graves and Graveyards. 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 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.

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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.  

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Graves and Graveyards Symbol Timeline in The Namesake

The timeline below shows where the symbol Graves and Graveyards 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
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
...a field trip, first to the historical home of a poet, and then to a graveyard where the writer is buried. The students are asked to make rubbings of the inscriptions... (full context)
Chapter 6
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 Edith. On his runs around the lake with Gerald, Gogol sees the Ratliff family graveyard, where generations of the family are buried—where Maxine will be buried someday. At night he... (full context)
Independence, Rebellion, and Growing Up Theme Icon
Identity and Naming Theme Icon
Love and Marriage Theme Icon
...her past and future in this place: growing old, burying her parents in the family graveyard, teaching her children to swim in the lake. (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
...framed photograph of his father on the wall, the closest thing Ashoke has to a grave. Ashima’s mourning has caused her to age quickly, and Sonia now lives with and takes... (full context)