The wife of Ashoke and the mother of Gogol and Sonia, Ashima was raised in Calcutta and married Ashoke having only met him briefly. She moves with him to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and stays in a suburb of Boston to raise her family.
The husband of Ashima and the father of Gogol and Sonia, Ashoke earns his doctorate from MIT and works as a professor in the Boston area while his children grow up. He was in a horrible train accident as a young man while he was reading a work by the Russian author Gogol, and names his son after that author.
Ashima Ganguli's obstetrician, who has "fine sand-colored hair swept back from his temple" and who delivers Gogol
One of the nurses at the hospital when Gogol is born, who has "a fringe of reddish hair" and who is quite friendly to Ashima.
A middle-aged Bengali businessman whom Ashoke meets on the train before the horrible accident. He advises Ashoke to travel the world before settling down. When the train crashes, he is killed but Ashoke survives.
The wife of Dilip Nandi. Together they live in Cambridge; the Gangulis met them at the Purity Supreme and they are present at Gogol's rice ceremony.
The husband of Maya Nandi. They are a Bengali couple whom the Gangulis met at the Purity Supreme, and they attend Gogol's rice ceremony. They also babysit him while Sonia is being born at the hospital.
A mathematics postdoc from Dehradun. Ashoke met him at MIT and he attends Gogol's rice ceremony.
She was intended to name Gogol, but the letter she sent with her preferences never arrived in the United States. Ashima remembers her as "a shrunken woman in widow's white and with tawny skin that refuses to wrinkle." Shortly after Gogol's birth, she suffers a stroke and loses her mind.
The compiler of hospital birth certificates, a small bald man who advises the Gangulis to go ahead and choose a name for Gogol before leaving the hospital to avoid red tape later.
A Harvard sociology professor who lives with his wife, Judy, and his two daughters, Amber and Clover, above the Gangulis in Cambridge. He has "a wiry rust-colored beard that makes him look much older than he actually is."
The wife of Alan, who lives above the Gangulis in Cambridge. She works for a women's health collective in Somerville a few days a week and dresses like a hippie.
Ashima's brother who lives in Calcutta. He calls her to report that her father has died of a heart attack.
The principal at Gogol's kindergarten. Ashima and Ashoke instruct her to call Gogol by his formal name, "Nikhil," but when she asks Gogol what he would like to be called and he answers "Gogol," it sticks. She is a "tall, slender woman with short white-blond hair. She wears frosted blue eye shadow and a lemon yellow suit."
Gogol's junior-year English teacher, who knows and appreciates Gogol the Russian author. He assigns the class to read one of Gogol's short stories, "The Overcoat." He is described as "a slight, wiry, shamelessly preppy man with a surprisingly deep voice, reddish blond hair, smallish but penetrating green eyes, horn-rimmed glasses."
One of Gogol's high school friends, whose brother invites them to a college party at the university where Gogol's father teaches.
One of Gogol's high school friends.
One of Gogol's high school friends.
A girl with "short, dark brown hair, curving in toward her cheeks and cut in a high fringe over her brows." Gogol meets her at a college party while he is a junior in high school and she is is his first kiss.
Gogol is the son of Ashima and Ashoke, named after the Russian author Nikolai Gogol. He changes his name to Nikhil the summer before starting college. He is "just shy of six feet tall, his body slender, his thick brown-black hair slightly in need of a cut. His face is lean, intelligent, suddenly handsome, the bones more prominent, the pale gold skin clean-shaven and clear."
The little sister of Gogol and the daughter of Ashima and Ashoke. As a teenager, she fights with her parents about her hair style, parties, and pierced ears.
Gogol's serious girlfriend. He meets her at a party and ends up moving into her parents' home in New York. "Her forehead is high and smooth, her jawbones sloping and unusually long. Her eyes are greenish, the irises encased by thin rings of black."
The mother of Maxine and the wife of Gerald. She is "tall and slender like her daughter, with straight iron-colored hair cut youthfully to frame her face."
The father of Maxine and the husband of Lydia. He is a "tall, good-looking man with luxuriant white hair, Maxine's pale green-gray eyes, thin rectangular glasses perched halfway down his nose."
Maxine's grandfather, whom Gogol meets at the Ratliff's lake house in New Hampshire. He is a retired professor of classical archaeology.
Maxine's grandmother, whom Gogol meets at the Ratliff's lake house in New Hampshire. She is "small and thin, proportioned like a girl, her white hair cut in a bob and her face deeply wrinkled."
One of the draftsmen who works with Gogol at the architecture firm in New York; he takes Gogol to the party where he meets Maxine Ratliff.
The mortician who shows Gogol his father's body to identify. He is a "short, pleasant-looking man with a salt-and-pepper beard."
Sonia's boyfriend and eventual husband. He is half-Jewish and half-Chinese and an editor at the Boston Globe.
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.
One important example of man versus society can be found in Gogol's name. His choice of name is not only a rejection of family tradition but a purposeful rejection meant to gain acceptance in American society.