Explain the significance of cultural aspects of identity in The Namesake.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that cultural aspects of identity is extremely important to Gogol's transformation.  Cultural identity is what provides the initial impetus for him to run away from in the first part of Gogol's narrative. What it means to be "Indian" is something that helps to define Gogol's identity is something that he runs away from.  In this light, cultural identity is something that is significant because it helps to define an element that Gogol refuses to embrace. Through this, Gogol refuses to see "his namesake," or his identity, as one that is understood through cultural means and cultural differentiation.  As Gogol becomes closer to his family and his "namesake" with his father's death, he strongly identifies with his cultural aspect of identity, embracing his own "namesake" and the culture from which it spawns.  With Gogol's marriage to Moushumi is one that envelops and surrounds cultural notion of identity.  Yet, the fact that this marriage falters and Gogol comes to his own understanding of identity, the exploration of his true "namesake," in a realm that is outside of culture helps to bring out Lahiri's idea that culture can play an important role in helping to define identity, but its aspects do not solely characterize it.


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