What are the ways in which Jhumpa Lahiri presents marriage in the novel The Namesake?

The marriages of Ashoke and Ashima, Gerald and Lydia, and Gogol and Moushumi all serve to demonstrate the different ways in which spouses can interact. Lahiri highlights some of these issues through her depiction of these relationships.

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There are a few marriages in Lahiri's The Namesake. Two of these marriages influence Gogol, and one is his own union with Moushumi. 

The first marriage that influences Gogol is, of course, that of his own parents, Ashoke and Ashima. Gogol's parents' relationship is the result of an arranged marriage set up by their parents in India. As a result of this tradition as well as other cultural norms. Ashoke and Ashima are not outwardly affectionate to one another. Gogol reflects at one point that he has never heard his parents say they love each other. However, the reader knows that the two love each other, as demonstrated by the anguish Ashima feels when her husband suddenly passes away. 

Some of Gogol's reflection on his parents' marriage comes from the comparison of the marriage of Gerald and Lydia, the parents of his girlfriend Max. Gerald and Lydia are very openly affectionate and share common intellectual interests. They are comfortable with one another and with expressing their love in front of Max and Gogol. As a result, Gogol notices that Max's parents' marriage is seemingly different from that of his own parents. 

Eventually, Gogol marries not Max but Moushumi, a childhood acquaintance whose parents are also Indian. This relationship seems to fulfill both partners' parents' hopes, but the marriage does not last. Moushumi is unfaithful and wants to disavow some of her connection to her Indian heritage (she is more at home in Europe). Part of the trouble could have stemmed from Gogol's profound struggles with identity. On the whole, the marriages in the novel help the reader evaluate Gogol's ongoing battle to define who he is and who he wants to be. 

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Marriage is portrayed in a nuanced manner throughout The Namesake. The marriages of two different couples are examined, showing the various themes that repeat themselves from one generation to another. Although the author delves into the darker side of marriage, this work manages to avoid cynicism.

Ashima and Ashoke

Ashoke is a young engineering student who lives in America and returns to Calcutta to find a wife who shares his cultural heritage. He marries a young Bengalese woman who did not have any significant choice in the union, but he is not unkind and the couple manages to create a relatively happy life. Nonetheless, Ashima finds herself isolated in her new country due to the language and cultural barriers. She especially longs for the sense of community and family she had in Calcutta when she gives birth to her son, Gogol.

Gogol and Moushimi

Moushimi is a vibrant and independent young Bengalese woman who is introduced to Gogol through his mother. After being abandoned by her fiance, she was able to enjoy an unusual amount of freedom in her twenties. While she is instantly drawn to Gogol, it takes only a year for her to resent their marriage and the loss of freedom it brings. She pulls away from him and begins an affair with a former high school classmate. Although their marriage ends poorly, Moushimi and Gogol share a brief period of happiness and romance.

Both couples in this story demonstrate different aspects of married life in Bengalese culture. Moushimi and Ashima may have chosen different life paths, but they come from similar backgrounds and share similar feelings about marriage. Both women feel isolated and constricted by the role society expects them to play as wives. Gogol finds himself disappointed with the way his marriage ended, but it leads to introspection that allows him to find self-acceptance.

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