The Namesake

The Namesake Summary and Analysis of Chapter 7


Chapter 7 begins from Ashima's point of view as she sits at the kitchen table in the house on Pemberton Road. She is having a quiet evening, addressing Christmas cards and drinking tea. She has never lived by herself before, but now that Ashoke is working for a long period in Ohio, with his own apartment there, she is on her own. She has been working at the public library and has made friends there. Ashoke comes home to visit her and to take care of the household duties she doesn't know how to manage once per month.

Ashoke calls at 3pm and tells her he is at the hospital. His stomach has been bothering him all day, so he has driven himself to the hospital to get it checked out. They get off the phone and Ashima continues addressing Christmas cards. She looks through her address book at all the addresses Gogol and Sonia have had over the years; she never erases any of the addresses in her books, just adds to them. Their "vagabond" lifestyle is very different from the one she has led, living in only three houses her entire life. After two hours, she has not heard from Ashoke and so she calls the hospital. An intern tells her that Ashoke has "expired." He has died from a massive heart attack.

Gogol flies home the next morning, since he has missed his mother's calls the night before. He and Maxine had been at a book party thrown by one of Maxine's friends. When he arrived back at her parents' house, his sister had called and finally gotten through. Now Gogol goes to the hospital in Ohio to identify his father's body. Mr. Davenport, the mortician, shows him Ashoke's body and he touches the hair on his father's face delicately.

Gogol drives Ashoke's leased car back to the apartment his father was renting in order to clean it. He brings most of the furniture down to the basement of the apartment complex, to be claimed by someone else who needs it, and throws out all the food as his mother had instructed him to do. He feels guilty throwing away food, since his father would never have done that himself; Ashoke always appreciated having food to eat and resented ever throwing any bit of it away.

Gogol calls Maxine and she advises him to sleep at a hotel, but he decides to sleep on the couch at his father's apartment instead because he doesn't want to leave it empty. He spends the night thinking about his father: the last time they had seen each other, when Maxine and Gogol had stopped by the house on Pemberton Road to have lunch before heading up to New Hampshire instead of staying overnight as his parents had hoped they would. The next morning, he flies home to Boston to be with his mother and Sonia.

At the house on Pemberton Road, many people come by to sit with them in mourning. After ten days of eating a mourner's diet of no meat or fish, the Gangulis have a religious ceremony and a feast to mark the end of the mourning period. Maxine comes, too, and Gogol feels distant from her. The Gangulis go through the motions of celebrating Christmas and New Year’s, and then Gogol returns to New York while Sonia remains at the house with Ashima.

As the train heads toward New York, Gogol remembers a time when he was a child and his family had driven to the beach on Cape Cod. They had driven as far out as they could, and then his father and he had continued walking, out onto the rocks, as far as possible. Unfortunately, his father forgot to bring a camera, but he tells Gogol, "We will have to remember it, then." He tells Gogol, "Try to remember it always... remember that you and I made this journey, that we went together to a place where there was nowhere left to go." Now Gogol remembers it as he travels away from their family home, back to his life in New York.


The theme of alienation is tied to loneliness in Chapter 7, with regard to Ashima. She is living alone in the house on Pemberton Road and she does not like it at all. She "feels too old to learn such a skill. She hates returning in the evenings to a dark, empty house, going to sleep on one side of the bed and waking up on another." When Maxine comes to stay with the Gangulis at the end of the mourning period for Ashoke, Gogol can tell "she feels useless, a bit excluded in this house full of Bengalis." It's the way he is used to feeling around her extended family and friends in New Hampshire.

Ashima has never uttered Ashoke's name in his presence; the reader is reminded of this fact as she signs his name to their Christmas cards. It creates a rift between Ashoke's name and his identity, at least his identity to his wife. Even after Ashoke dies, as Ashima explains to their friends what happened to him, she refuses, "even in death, to utter her husband's name." She does not understand his identity as linked to his name.

The relationship between parents and children is an important theme in this chapter. As Ashima addresses Christmas cards, she is wistful that Sonia and Gogol did not come home to celebrate Thanskgiving with her. Their need for independence is contrary to the need she felt at their age to be near her family. Gogol begins to feel tender toward his father after his death, when his attitude toward him while he was alive was generally impatient. As Gogol drives Ashoke's rental car to the rental office of his apartment building, he wonders if a man outside the building mistakes him for his father. The thought is comforting to him. He now understands the guilt and uselessness his parents had felt when their parents had passed away across the world, in Calcutta.

The tension between life and death is prominent in this chapter, especially as Gogol deals with the death of Ashoke, his father. He thinks about how "they were already drunk from the book party, lazily sipping their beers, their cold cups of jasmine tea. All that time, his father was in the hospital, already dead." As Gogol takes the train from Boston back to his life in New York, he thinks of the train accident his father had been a victim in so long ago.

As the novel progresses, the characters begin to feel more and more nostalgic about earlier times in their lives. Gogol feels nostalgic when his mother and Sonia come to the train station to see him off. He remembers that the whole family would see him off every time he returned to Yale as a college student; "his father would always stand on the platform until the train was out of sight."