In The Namesake, how does Gogol's relationship to his family influence the development of his identity?

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

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Gogol's identity is enhanced by the fluid relationship he holds with his family.  At first, Gogol's identity is enhanced with distancing himself from his family.  This is seen in the choices he makes and the overall demeanor he possesses:

This change in name and Gogol's going to Yale, rather than following his father’s footsteps to MIT, sets up the barriers between Gogol and his family. The distance, both geographically and emotionally, between Gogol and his parents continues to increase. He wants to be American not Bengalese. He goes home less frequently, dates American girls, and becomes angry when anyone calls him Gogol... He is rather stiff personality-wise, perpetually angry or else always on the lookout for someone to make a stereotypical comment about his background.

In this light, Gogol defines his identity against that of his family.  It is within this frame of reference that Gogol constructs who he is in the world.  His relationship with Maxine is an extension of this.  With the death of his father and the reevaluation of his behavior, his family plays a role in his identity as he spends more time with them, even entertaining the idea of marrying the Bengalese girls, Moushumi.  When this relationship sours, Gogol's embrace of his name with the reading of a collection of the writer's work helps to establish that Gogol is more of a centered human being as he has made peace with who he is in the world, something that includes embracing his own familial background.  He has merged his identity with theirs.

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