Study Guide: The Namesake

III. The Plot Develops: Chapter 3 to 12

Chapter 12 - 2000

B. Open for Discussion

Discuss these questions in small groups. Then take one of the topics and write a summary of the statements made in response to that question by each member of the group.

  1. As she packs her belongings, Ashima thinks about the years spent in the house on Pemberton Road: "And though she still does not feel fully at home within these walls on Pemberton Road she knows that this is home nevertheless – the world for which she is responsible, which she has created, which is everywhere around her, needing to be packed up, given away, thrown out bit by bit" (280).

    If her house is now her "home," would it be logical to say that America is also Ashima's "home?" As you discuss this question, explain what "home" means to you.

  2. What does Gogol mean when he thinks to himself that "his time with [Moushumi] seems like a permanent part of him that no longer has any relevance, or currency. As if that time were a name he'd ceased to use" (284)? How has his identity now changed as a result of his divorce?

  3. The Namesake is very neat and tight in structure. It starts with an accident which nearly kills Ashoke and the book, The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol, which saves his life. Years later, when his baby son is born and Ashoke is thinking of this past miracle, he names his son Gogol after the book's author. At the end of The Namesake, Gogol, who has shown no interest in the book throughout his life, finds by accident in his room the copy his father had once given him as a gift. The novel ends with Gogol's eyes focused on the book: "For now, he starts to read" (291). What symmetry!

    Isn't Russian writer Nikolai Gogol a central character in The Namesake, as Gogol rebels against Nikolai Gogol and the Russian literary culture that he represents? The force of the Russian literary presence throughout The Namesake seems to add another dimension to Gogol's conflict, and his life seems to be "saved" at the end because of it. What do you think? Is Gogol saved? What will his life be like in the future now that he is willing to read Nikolai Gogol's book?