"Do yourself a favor. Before it's too late, without thinking too much about it first, pack a pillow and a blanket and see as much of the world as you can. You will not regret it. One day it will be too late."
Ashoke meets Ghosh, a friendly Bengali businessman, on the train in 1961. They have a long conversation and Ghosh tells him this to encourage him to travel before settling down. Later the train crashes and Ghosh is killed, but Ashoke survives. He is moved by Ghosh's advice and decides to apply for a fellowship in the United States.
"I'm saying I don't want to raise Gogol alone in this country. It's not right. I want to go back."
Ashima tells this to Ashoke soon after Gogol's birth. Her husband is working constantly at the university and she feels alienated raising a son in a foreign land. She and Ashoke miss their families back in Calcutta and visit often, but the distance is still devastating. Soon they make Bengali friends so Ashima feels less alone, but her relationship with her family in Calcutta is still of utmost importance to her.
"Finish it, Gogol. At your age I ate tin."
Ashoke says this to Gogol when they are eating dinner together during Ashima's difficult pregnancy with Sonia. It draws attention to one of the main differences between Ashoke's childhood in Calcutta and Gogol's childhood in the Boston area. Later, after Ashoke's death while Gogol is cleaning out his father's apartment in Ohio, Gogol will regret having to throw away the food in the refrigerator since his father would never have done so.
"And what about you, Gogol? Do you want to be called by another name?"
The principal of Gogol's kindergarten, Mrs. Lapidus, asks him this question after his parents direct her to refer to him by his good name, Nikhil, while he is in school. He answers "no," that he would not like to be called by a name other than Gogol, so she obeys his wishes over those of his parents and "Gogol" sticks at school. Gogol will later regret this decision, and legally changes his name to "Nikhil."
"You remind me of everything that followed."
This is the answer to Gogol's question, "Do I remind you of that night?" Ashoke has just revealed to Gogol why he chose that name for him: because the collection of short stories by Nikolai Gogol had allowed him to be identified by rescue workers after the train crash that nearly killed him. This answer draws attention to the tension between life and death; from an accident that nearly cost him his life, his father has emerged and wants to be reminded of the new life he created in his son by giving him the name Gogol.
"I don't want to get away."
This is Gogol's response to Maxine's question, shortly after his father's death, regarding whether or not he still wants to go to New Hampshire with her family to celebrate New Year’s Eve. She feels out of place at his father's funeral celebration; for once, she is alienated, not Gogol. She says it would do him good to "get away from all this," and he responds that he doesn't want to do so; now, he feels connected to his family in a way that he hadn't before.
"Nikhil. It wasn't the name he was born with."
Moushumi reveals that Gogol wasn't born "Nikhil" to the dinner party guests at Astrid and Donald's home, somewhere Gogol feels out of place and uncomfortable. He feels betrayed by this revelation, though he has never told Moushumi that it's a secret. This part of him was private and Moushumi has shared it with people who, to Gogol, represent an alien world of hers. This action represents the beginnings of a rift in their marriage that will end in Moushumi's affair with Dimitri.
"I don't want to go... I don't want to see them. I can't."
Ashima says this as the airplane takes off for India, at the beginning of the trip they take to visit her family after learning that her father has died. They leave six weeks earlier than they had planned, because of the bad news. These words express the sentiment of feeling anxious about seeing the rest of her family because she wasn't there with her father when he died; she was across the world, away from everyone she loves. Gogol will feel differently when his father passes away alone in Ohio; he wants to be with his family, Ashima and Sonia, as much as possible.
"I detest American television."
Moushumi says this as a child, during one of the parties where Gogol and she are together in a room with the other Bengali children. She has returned from England, where her family spent a lot of her childhood, and feels alienated from other American children. Later, when she and Gogol meet as adults and eventually are married, this alienation becomes more apparent. She retreats to Paris as an adult, since America never felt like home to her.
"It wasn't me."
Gogol gives this explanation to his high school friends after he shares his first kiss with Kim at a college party. When Kim asks him what his name is, he can't imagine telling her it's Gogol - he identifies Gogol as the type of person who could never kiss a girl. Therefore, he tells her his name is Nikhil, and then he has the confidence to kiss her. Later, when he himself is in college, he will permanently change his name to Nikhil and gain confidence with women as a result.
The Namesake Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Namesake is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
However, the novel is written in the third-person voice, the implied point of view changes. This allows background information to be provided almost anecdotally. When Ashima's point of view is implied, Ashoke appears to the reader as he might to...