Skip to main content

The Namesake: A Critical Review

"The reader should realize himself that it could not have happened otherwise and that to give him any other name was quite out of the question." – Nikolai Gogol, "The Overcoat
My copying of the epigraph is to revere the literary precision that Jhumpa Lahiri has maintained throughout “The Namesake”. “The Namesake” is a story of dreams, despairs, diversions and disillusionment. It is the story of a generation which tries to cling to their traditions in their newly found abode and of a generation which is trying to free themselves from the same traditions being imposed upon them. It is the story of the angst of the Bengali immigrants in a foreign land and the conundrum of ABCD (American Born Conflicted Deshi’s) on being exposed to two contrasting cultures of East and West. 
“But she has gathered that Americans, in spite of their public declarations of affection, in spite of their miniskirts and bikinis, in spite of their hand-holding on the street and lying on top of each other on the Cambridge Common, prefer their privacy.”
The former half of the story revolves around the stark cultural variation that a middle class Indian subjected to on his/her advent to America. She compares Orient’s collectivism to western Individualism. Bengali bindings to Boston’s liberty. Indian Sanctity for relations to American Intimacy.
“She has adopted his surname, but refuses for propriety’s sake to utter his first.”
Lahiri very well captures the anxiety of the Bengali immigrants when they are compelled to live in solitude in a land where they know none and are known to none. The immaculate portrayal of their helplessness when they are informed about the deaths of their loved ones, or when they survive through the bigotry of the society or when they witness their offspring forsaking the beliefs which they, so firmly, withheld even on a foreign soil, draws a sincere compliment for the keenness of her observations and eloquence of her writing.
“He knows that this sort of life which is such a proud accomplishment for his own parents, is of no relevance, no interest to her, that she loves him in spite of it."   
The latter half explicates identity crisis that the first generation American borns experience as a result of being subjected to two different lifestyles: the one they are part of and the other they have inherited. They live a dual existence: for some they are Indians, for others American. Lahiri has very subtly attempted to give words to their intricate emotions: American common sense held together by through fragile laces of Indianess.  In some strange way, they are connected through their parents to a strange culture of which they have never been a part of and yet they can trace its roots in themselves. 

“It is in the  midst of the laughter of these drunken adults, and the cries of their children running barefoot, chasing fireflies on the lawn, that he remembers that his father left for Cleveland a week ago, that by now he is there, in a new apartment, alone. That his mother is alone on Pemberton Road. He knows he should call to make sure his father has arrived safely, and to find out how his mother is faring on her own. But such concerns make no sense here among Maxine and her family.”
As an author, Jhumpa is pedantic for details which, for most times, draw you into the story but at other instants expel you away as you find it to be slow-paced and unhappening. But for the greater part of the story you find yourself appreciating her eye for the intricate details in monotony of daily routine. Her descriptions are often passive, impersonal and at times blatant, and yet there is something sublime about it that you can't refrain yourself from appreciating. To conclude with, “The Namesake” is a perfect concoction of humour, irony and unsentimental portrayal of sentiments that will entice you and enthrall and will eventually leave you dissatisfied at a climax where you just don’t wish to emerge out of the story.    
“Remember that you and I made this journey, that we went to a place where there was no where else to go. “


Popular posts from this blog

Riding To Day's End

You look at your smartphone screen and try to calculate how much time will the cab driver take to finally reach your location. You acknowledge that, given the traffic in your city, the time you see on your screen may be quite off. You try to estimate whether you can squeeze in the final mail you want to drop before you call it a day. DROP, as if emails are bombs. They probably are. You click on the red compose button and, before the box opens, try to steal another peak. If ever every microsecond mattered, it is now. You start typing and notice how slow you are. You should have taken that touch-typing workshop in the college. Every 30 secs, you try to steal a peek at the dimly lit smartphone screen. You think you can pull it off. You have a mild sense of achievement and a smile sprinkled over your face. You are just there. 
You look back at the smartphone screen. The backlight is now turned off. You struggle to open the screen lock with one hand while typing the last line with another. …

You still not die?

Biting winds pierce by Ripping my soul into shreds Cold night that muffles me Whispers only of winter ahead.
I dare not hope for a fireplace Nor heat of a rug do I aim I seek that flickering candle-light To help me have some warmth in dream
Battered body, tattered soul Demand only one reply With goals lost and dreams crushed Why, o man, you still not die?

The above poem is merely a rephrasing of Robert Frost's poem A Question with my words and absorption of the core idea. The poem throws light on the immense pain and suffering that accompanies almost everyone's life; then, enquires meaning and worth of such an existence. Here is Robert Frost's original poem which is more lyrical and succinct.
A voice said, look me in the stars, And tell me truly, man of earth, If all the body-and-soul scars Were not too much to pay for birth.

Missing link in dream and reality

"I desire things that will destroy me in the end" -- Sylvia Plath While looking out of my balcony, I can always spot a single star in the sky. Probably with the pollution level in Bangalore , the dim ones are hard to spot. If it was southern sky, I could bet it was Sirius. But I don't know what direction it is in and I am too lazy to make any efforts to find out. Moreover the name of the star does not matter. However, it has a similar symbolic significance for me as green light had Fitzgerald's Gatsby. A dream well conceived , clearly visualised and yet beyond grasp. A dream thoroughly cherished and yet unattained. This brings me to another haunting question. How do people start dreaming whatever they start dreaming about? Frankly, it's Gatsby who comes to rescue. Gatsby's dream incidentally was a outcome of exposure to the girl( I wish I remembered her but I don't even care about finding right now) .   We can't dream of things we cannot envisage. I t…