The Namesake

Overcoat Symbolism in The Namesake 12th Grade

Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake is a story that is parallel to Nikolai Gogol’s short story The Overcoat. Gogol’s work is commended and mentioned countless times by Lahiri in her writing. The Overcoat is about a man named Akaky Akakievich, who, at first, is content with his life then begins to question his identity. In an attempt to better himself, he replaces his old overcoat with a freshly-tailored one, and everyone envies it. At the instant his overcoat is robbed from him, not one person lent him a helping hand. In The Namesake, an overcoat is one’s identity, a burden that everyone possesses, and it can reveal or conceal a character’s true colours.

Each name is an overcoat. Gogol Ganguli, the main protagonist, was named after Nikolai Gogol, the author of the story that saved his father’s life in a massive train wreck. “With a slight quiver of recognition, as if he’d known it all along, the perfect pet name for his son occurs to Ashoke… ‘Gogol,’ he repeats, satisfied” (Lahiri, 28). This name “was the first thing his father had given him” (Lahiri, 289) and it was presented with a purpose. It so happens that Gogol’s life bares resemblance to Akaky’s. For instance, Akaky discovers that his shame is possibly the result of having an...

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