Why does the name "Gogol" have special meaning for Ashoke in "The Namesake"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The name Gogol is extremely significant to Ashoke in The Namesake . Ashoke gives his son the name Gogol, and at first, the naming is portrayed as somewhat arbitrary. Ashoke and his wife Ashima, a recent immigrant from India, are at the hospital and are told they cannot take the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The name Gogol is extremely significant to Ashoke in The Namesake. Ashoke gives his son the name Gogol, and at first, the naming is portrayed as somewhat arbitrary. Ashoke and his wife Ashima, a recent immigrant from India, are at the hospital and are told they cannot take the boy home until he is named. According to Indian tradition, an elder on Ashima's side of the family is meant to name the child, but they have not received her letter. Having to adhere to the American rules and name the child, they go with "Gogol" at Ashoke's suggestion.

Ashoke chooses the name because Nikolai Gogol is his favorite writer, but also because he was reading a collection of Gogol stories on a train one night when he was involved in a horrific accident. Many people were killed and Ashoke himself was seriously injured. After a long and painful recovery, Ashoke decides to move to the United States and pursue his career goals, as well as his desire to travel. Ashoke credits his survival of the train crash with the fact that he was up reading the book and that he was holding it when he was discovered alive in the wreckage.

Ashoke sees Gogol as symbolic of his survival and rebirth. He tells his son that the name reminds him of how wonderful his life became after the crash, through his marriage, children, and career. The name is a source of tension between father and son for much of Gogol's life, and when he hears why he was named after the writer, he feels upset that his father is reminded of a near-death experience every time he sees or thinks of his son. Of course, that was never Ashoke's intention, and it takes a long time, and even Ashoke's death, for Gogol to come to terms with his name's significance. He starts to embrace it by the end of the novel when he begins to read the Gogol short story collection that his father gifted him when he (Gogol) was a teenager.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The name has special meaning to Ashoke for various reasons. The first is because it is the last name of one of his favorite Russian authors. When he was 22 years old he was in a terrible train wreck in which he almost died. He was clutching a page of from "The Overcoat," a short story written by Nikolai Gogol. The only reason that the rescuers saw him was because he held up the hand that was holding the page and the page fell.

Another reason he feels a connection to the author Gogol is because both he and Nikolai Gogol spent most of their "adult life outside of [their] homeland". Ashoke tells his son this when he gives him the collected stories of Nikolai Gogol for his 14th birthday, which includes "The Overcoat."

He chose to name his son Gogol because his son represented the second miracle in his life, the first miracle being that he survived the accident.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The only real significance the name "Gogol" has in this book is that when faced with having to give his newborn son a name in order to take him home from the hospital, Ashoke Ganguli used the first name that popped into his head.

When he was younger and still living in India, Ashoke survived a train wreck. The only thing he was able to salvage from his belongings was a tattered copy of Gogol's novel "The Overcoat." For some reason, that name stuck in his memory, and that's what he named his son.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team