Jhumpa Lahiri explores the theme of cultural difference in The Namesake through the idea of a name. This theme is closely related to the theme of modernity. Marriage is also a culturally meaningful theme.
Ashoke is part of the post-independence generation of Indians who were interested in a wide range of modern, foreign ideas—not just those that British colonialism had imposed on them. This attitude is represented by Ashok’s reading a Russian book and by his moving to the United States after he becomes a physician. Nevertheless, Ashok is committed to continuing many important Indian cultural traditions.
The question of names is closely related to his modern ideas and the ways they conflict with Indian traditions. When a child is born, the Indian custom was that a senior family member would choose their permanent, or “good,” name. The family had no senior relative in the United States, and they had to name the baby before he left the hospital. For a temporary name, Ashok chooses the...
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