The Namesake Questions and Answers
by Jhumpa Lahiri

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

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Cultural identity is a crucial theme in Lahiri's The Namesake. The main character, Gogol, is an American born of Indian parents soon after they have settled as a married couple in Massachusetts. His parents, Ashima and Ashoke, adapt to the US on different timelines. Ashoke is more comfortable, as he has a job at the university, but Ashima has trouble warming to American culture, feels homesick, and struggles to occupy the hours she must spend alone every day. Once she gives birth to Gogol, Ashima is less lonely, but she and her husband still maintain many of the traditions of their homeland. Their circle of friends is made up mostly of other Bengalis. They expect their children to live according to their customs. Gogol struggles to do so as he gets older because he views his parents' lifestyle as too conservative. This conflict comes to a head when Gogol turns 18 and decides to legally change his name to the more ordinary "Nikhil/Nik."

Gogol's legal name change is one step in his...

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