The Namesake

The Namesake Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11 and 12


Chapter 11 is narrated with Gogol as the protagonist; he knows nothing of his wife's affair with Dimitri. Moushumi is at a conference in Palm Beach and he has been alone for the weekend. Now it is Sunday and he is waiting for her to come home. It is freezing cold in their apartment because the building's boiler is broken. The previous weekend was Thanksgiving, and they had spent it in their New York apartment with Ashima, Sonia and Sonia's new boyfriend Ben, and Moushumi's parents and brother. Gogol has the vague feeling that something is not right in his marriage with Moushumi, but he can't put his finger on what. He feels overwhelmed by the approaching holiday season and spends the day wandering around thinking of a gift to buy Moushumi. He decides to buy them tickets to go to Venice, Italy together.

Chapter 12 begins over a year later, before Christmas of the year 2000. Ashima is preparing food for the party she will throw that evening. She is nostalgic for Christmas parties of the past, especially since this is the last Christmas she will spend in the house on Pemberton Road. It is the first Christmas party she has thrown since Ashoke's funeral, and she feels nostalgic. From now on, Ashima will spend six months at a time in Calcutta with her family and six months in the United States with her children and friends.

The reader learns from Ashima's point of view that Sonia and Ben are going to be married in Calcutta in a little over a year, and that Gogol and Moushumi decided to get a divorce. Sonia and Ben have gone to pick up Gogol at the train station while Ashima continues to prepare the croquettes for the party. She takes a shower and is suddenly overcome with a feeling of deep loneliness, missing her husband and mourning her move out of the house where they made a home together. She puts on the bathrobe her husband had given her as a gift years before, pulls herself together, and waits for her children to arrive back at the house.

Gogol arrives at the train station before Sonia and Ben are there to meet him. He considers how strange it will be to have his mother live in Calcutta for half the year. He remembers the year before, how on the train ride from New York to the house at Pemberton Road he had discovered Moushumi's affair with Dimitri. They had been discussing their travel plans for the next summer, and she had accidentally mentioned Dimitri's name, catching herself too late. Immediately, Gogol had asked her if she was having an affair, and the answer had been yes, of course.

They had spent the holiday at the house on Pemberton Road as planned, and over the course of a night in bed together, she had confessed to him the whole story about how she met Dimitri and how she came to be having an affair. She left the day after Christmas to go back to New York, and when Gogol returned to the apartment days later, she had packed up and left for good. When she had served him divorce papers at his office, she had told him that she was moving back to Paris. He had taken the vacation they had planned to Venice by himself, getting lost in the streets and exploring.

Now, arriving at the train station a year later, he sees Sonia and Ben pulling up in his mother's car to take him to the house one last time. They all set up the fake tree together, and Gogol remembers how as a child, he had convinced his parents to start celebrating Christmas like the other families. At 7:30 pm, the party begins. All his mother's friends are there and the atmosphere is hectic and joyous. Gogol goes upstairs to get the camera as his mother instructs, to take pictures of the party.

He goes back to his old bedroom and discovers the book his father had given him so many years ago on his birthday: the collection of short stories by Nikolai Gogol. At the time, he had had no appreciation for it and hadn't even read a single story. Now, he sees the inscription his father has written inside: "The man who gave you his name, from the man who gave you your name." He takes his time, not going downstairs with the camera just yet; he sits down and begins to read The Overcoat.


Lahiri's use of different protagonists for different chapters and sections of chapters enables the technique of dramatic irony. In Chapter 11, it is clear that Gogol is unaware of the affair Moushumi is having with Dimitri; the reader has learned about the development of the affair in the previous chapter, during which Moushumi was the protagonist.

Nostalgia is prevalent in Chapter 12, as Ashima prepares for the last Christmas party she will ever host at the house on Pemberton Road. She remembers when Gogol and Sonia were little, helping her prepare the food for these parties: "Gogol's hand wrapped around the can of crumbs, Sonia always wanting to eat the croquettes before they'd been breaded and fried." As Sonia, Ben, Gogol, and Ashima assemble the fake Christmas tree together, Gogol remembers decorating the first plastic tree his parents had bought at his insistence.

The difference between Bengali and American approaches to marriage is clear in Ashima's evaluation of Gogol's divorce from Moushumi. She thinks, "Fortunately they have not considered it their duty to stay married, as the Bengalis of Ashoke and Ashima's generation do." In her view, the pressure to settle for less than "their ideal of happiness" has given way to "American common sense." Surprisingly, Ashima is pleased with this outcome, as opposed to an unhappy but dutiful marriage for her son.

Ashima feels alienated and alone after showering before the party. She "feels lonely suddenly, horribly, permanently alone, and briefly, turned away from the mirror, she sobs for her husband." She feels "both impatience and indifference for all the days she still must live." She does not feel motivated to be in Calcutta with the family she left over thirty years before, nor does she feel excited about being in the United States with her children and potential grandchildren. She just feels exhausted and overwhelmed without her husband.

The relationship between parents and children is prominent as a theme in Chapter 12. Gogol considers what it took for his parents to live in the United States, so far from their own parents, and how he has always remained close to home; they bore it "with a stamina he fears he does not possess himself." He does not think he can bear being so far away from his mother for so long.