Explain how The Namesake is in the Bildungsroman genre.Does the genre definition apply to the development of the boy Gogol or to the struggles of the father Ashoke?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The genre of Bildungsroman is a German genre of eighteenth and nineteenth century novel that traces the psychological development of a young man en-route to maturity and his place in society. In general terms, there is debate among critics as to whether British, French and American novels properly fall under the Bildungsroman genre label because of nationalistic changes to the established form, initiated by Karl Morgenstern and popularized by Wilhelm Dilthey.

That discussion aside, The Namesake falls under Bildungsroman genre guidelines in that the novel describes the life of the son of Ashoke and Ashima, named Gogol, as he travels from infancy to maturity. Lahiri provides a psychological study of Gogol's anger at being an oddity and a misfit in his homeland of Massachusetts, his rejection of his father's traditions, his embrace of American culture, his subsequent confusion, disappointments and self-reconciliation.

The novel ends with Gogol's growing realization of his place in society. Though not the story of a German young man, and though not written by a German author, The Namesake fits the definition of Bildungsroman.

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