Why were Ashima and Ashoke forced to choose a name when Gogol was born?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lahiri sets this up as one of the most important events in the novel.  Not only does it help to explain the title, but it also establishes in the most clear of ways the identity crisis that the family experiences in having one part of their consciousness embedded in the new world while the other remains in the old world.  The naming of the child is something that takes time in Bengali culture.  It is a ceremony and is not immediate.  This is not the case in the Western culture, in which the hospital administrators demands a name to be given and a birth certificate to be registered with the child's name evident.  In this, there is the clash of cultures that defines Gogol's being, helping to play a formative role in the characterization that will emerge.  The thoughts of Ashoke and Ashima contrasting a naming ceremony, an elder giving the name, the spiritual consecration of name and identity collides with the bureaucratic responsibilities involved in completing a form.  The warmth and community setting in which the Bengali/ Indian culture surrounds the naming with the reality of where they are in the West helps to establish both why they are forced to choose a name and how this event foreshadows the struggle that the entire family will face in seeking to better understand identity that is formed out of a dual consciousness of culture.