What are some literary techniques used in The Namesake?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Namesake, author Jhumpa Lahiri describes the struggles and hardships of an immigrant couple who form a new life in a country whose customs are completely at odds with those to which they are accustomed.

After Ashoke and Ashima are married in a traditional ceremony in India, they move to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Ashoke has been assigned a teaching position. Their baby boy is named Gogol, after a Russian author whose story the young Ashoke was reading when a terrible train accident occurred, and he was saved from the death that took so many others. At first, he does not tell his son why his name has been given to him, and Gogol fights internally to find himself, feeling that this name sometimes impedes him because people think it odd or even ridiculous. Also, Gogol struggles with the two cultures in which he finds himself.

One of the literary techniques that the author, Lahiri, employs is argument in its different forms, for he uses different appeals to the importance and strength of family. Pathos (an emotional appeal) is especially used to involve readers' sympathies.

Here are other examples of literary techniques:

  • Alliteration (The repetition of an initial consonant sound)

And yet for some reason it is dependence...he feels. He feels free of responsibility  /f/  (Chapter 6)

swing wildly in the wind /w/ (Ch. 6)

Again he tastes the dust on his tongue, sees the twisted train....He was born twice in India,...then a third time in three lives by thirty. /t/ (Ch. 7)

  • Anaphora (The intentional repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of several successive verses, clauses, or paragraphs (www.freedictionary.com)

In Chapter 6, Gogol feels most comfortable in his room at Yale:

He likes its oldness, its persistent grace. He likes that so many students have occupied it....He likes the solidity of its plaster walls....He likes the dormer window

  • Parallelism (The use of successive constructions in prose that correspond in grammatical construction.)

"too many cars, too many tall buildings.... (Ch.5)

In Chapter 6, while her husband is gone, Ashima feels productive and sets about many tasks; however, after some time, she becomes lonely.

She stares at her empty tea cup....which she'd had to turn off. She began to shiver...She pulls her sari.... (Ch. 6)

  • Figurative language (words or expressions that have a meaning that is different from the literal interpretation)

There are certain images that wipe him flat. (Ch.1)

...the constant parade of sounds

  • Imagery (The use of language that appeals to the senses)

The sparkling empty streets, the polished black cars, the rows of gleaming white houses.... (visual imagery, Ch.1)

  • Simile (A comparison between two unlike things using the words "like" or "as")

...six or eight weeks passing like a dream" (Ch.3)

[from the story "The Overcoat"]...Petrovish's big toe, "with its deformed nail as thick and hard as the shell of a tortoise."

...when Akaky was robbed in "a square that looked to him like a dreadful desert." (Ch.1)

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some literary techniques used by Jhumpa Lahiri in The Namesake include sensory detail, description, imagery. Literary techniques are a category of the two literary devices from which an author chooses freely to create the details of a novel, play, poem or short story. Literary elements, on the other hand, include tone and mood (also called atmosphere). Lahiri's narratorial tone is objective, though sympathetic, and confident. The mood she creates within the setting of the story varies. For example, it is sometimes one of thoughtfulness and sometimes one of agitated discontent.

Of literary techniques, Lahiri uses many sensory details in The Namesake. She tells the texture, smell and appearance of things from food to clothes. In close connection with sensory detail, Lahiri also gives detailed descriptions of what her characters wear, where they go, what they look at as well as what their feelings and actions are. The imagery--the mental visions triggered by the sensory detail and descriptive detail--is heightened to a level that some critics called "lyrical," which is akin to poetical.