In "The Namesake," in what ways does Gogol's sense of self change and evolve because of his culture throughout the story?

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

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I think that Gogol's identity changes in large part due to his culture because it represents an aspect of his consciousness that has yet to be fully explored.  Gogol is a character that defines himself in stark opposition to his family.  Part of this definition against "the other" involves suppressing any notion of his cultural identity.  Gogol is raised as a prototypical second generation child, born in the West, and while there is a cultural attachment to another background, it is in name only.  Gogol definition in opposition to his family makes his heritage collateral damage in this process.  Gogol ends up suppressing this portion of his own identity.  When he struggles to find meaning in the world after his father's death, doors of questioning begin to open and one such portal is to his own heritage, a part of his identity that had been repressed for so long.  Gogol seeks answers, and the questions that he raises brings out his heritage or ethnicity as a natural place to locate some new conception of self, a part of self that had been denied for such a long part of his life.  In the struggle for meaning and definition, Gogol approaches his own background as a potential location for where answers might reside.  While the answers do not fully materialize, Gogol recognizes the need for questions in forming one's own sense of self.  He opens up first the cultural doors, and then the psychological ones in order to fully understand his own sense of self.  Cultural plays a role in this process, but it is not one that gives all of the answers.  It is one part of a larger configuration, which makes sense because identity in the modern setting is complex enough to find its residence in multiple dwellings in which culture is merely one of many.

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