The Namesake

The Quest for Identity: Symbolic Intricacies 12th Grade

In the novel, The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri uses symbolism to explore the quest for identity, specifically through the protagonist: Gogol Ganguli. One of the first instances Lahiri uses symbolism to explore Gogol’s identity is when she writes about Gogol’s six-month-old rice ceremony, the first external thrust toward his inherited culture. The ceremony itself is meant to be symbolic in that, in the Bengali tradition, it might indicate which traditional career path the child might pursue – perhaps “a landowner, scholar, or businessman.” However, this particular scene in the novel is also literarily symbolic. When prompted with the tray of objects, each symbolizing one of the aforementioned careers, “Gogol frowns,” as he is “forced at six months to confront his destiny,” and “begins to cry.” Such phrases might symbolize Gogol’s dissatisfaction, even from the very infancy of his life, with conforming to a predestined, Bengali future while simultaneously revealing, suggesting, and foreshadowing the internal struggle with identity Gogol will have all throughout the novel as he ventures to find himself.

Another way Lahiri uses symbolism to explore Gogol’s quest for identity is through the revealing account of Gogol’s school trip to a...

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