Student Question

What are the connections between Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri?

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The major connection between these two texts comes in the way that both Kathy and Gogol, as the protagonists of the two novels, have to move towards acceptance and discovery of their true identity. Of course, the true identity of both of these characters could not be more different. For Gogol, he battles against the Indian identity that is somewhat forced upon him by his parents, who, even though they live in America, do not embrace American culture. The rejection of his name given to him by his father is symptomatic of the way in which Gogol rejects the Bengali culture that his parents are so keen he adopts, and the novel is the story of his struggles with his identity and his eventual acceptance of who he is, that tragically only comes after his father's death when he reads the work of the author he was named after.

For Kathy in Ishiguro's classic, the novel charts her slow acceptance of her identity as a clone who is not meant for happiness and can only expect an early death as her organs are harvested. The plot of this story charts her denial and her eventual surrender to this fate, which is captured in the following description given by Tommy:

I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it's just too much. The current's too strong. They've got to let go, drift apart. That's how it is with us. It's a shame, Kath, because we've loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can't stay together forever.

In spite of the imperative command in the title, Kathy has to accept that there will be no happy ending for her and Tommy, in spite of the massive love they have for each other, because of their identity as clones. The story charts her eventual acceptance of her fate and the early death that she can look forward to. Both of these texts therefore can be connected through the struggles that the protagonists have with their identity and their move towards an eventual acceptance of that identity.

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I tend to think that one of the common thematic links between both works is the search for acceptance.  Both Gogol and the clones seem to be searching for some type of social acceptance.  Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth spend a good chunk of their time in Hailsham searching for acceptance with the outside world.  It is for this reason that their art takes on particular meaning and why their questions, albeit fledgling and small, still exist.  This becomes magnified as the work progresses.  For Gogol, acceptance within himself is something that causes him to move from relationship to relationship.  While he is accepted, it is not a deep and profound sense of acceptance.  Rather, it is something tepid and something that is more surface than anything.  For both narratives, the idea of a complete and profound sense of acceptance is where their identities seem to sojourn for answers.  This helps to enhance the theme of belonging that is both works.  Gogol searches for belonging, something that helps to explain why so much of the novel consists of his search for belonging.  He seeks to belong.  The ending of the novel is one in which Gogol finally belongs to his own name, understanding how it is a part of he and his identity.  Acceptance and belonging seem to go hand in hand for Gogol and characters like Tommy and Kathy, who continue, even after Ruth dies, to search for belonging both from others and themselves.  Tommy's outburst about what the truth is and how it has impacted him is a statement as to how the sense of belonging has been denied to him for so long.  Kathy's desire to be accepted as a carer, even to Tommy, and eventually in seeing her own life taken, is another example of this belonging.

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