In Juhmpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake, the reader is thrust into the daily life of Gogol Ganguli.
Gogol is a promising young man from a Bengali family, which the reader gets the pleasure of knowing since his birth. Ever since Gogol’s childhood all he ever wanted was to find a place where he could truly fit in, whether it be in his own culture, or in the American one in which he lives. During his life, Gogol searches everywhere to find out who he is and where he belongs. During his long search, young Gogol meets a beautiful, New York Intellectual named Maxine Ratliff. Gogol and Maxine share an eye-opening and carefree relationship which is misconstrued as true love. During this “Maxine chapter”, it becomes quite apparent that Gogol and Maxine’s relationship is solely based on the superficialities of American culture. The beginning of Gogol and Maxine’s history begins during Gogol’s time working at an architecture firm. Gogol is invited to a dinner party hosted by one of his coworkers.
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Gogol arrives at this gathering, and is greeted by an environment which he never has encountered before; a party of intellectuals, eating grapes and discussing the latest films. At this party, Gogol has his first encounter with “the New York woman”, and her name is Maxine Ratliff. The minute Gogol sets eyes on her he is intrigued by her seductive nature, her forward attitude, and her older image. Maxine is a new kind of woman to Gogol. She challenges him mentally and catches Gogol completely off guard by making the first move. The next morning after their meeting at the party, Maxine awakens Gogol at ten A.
M., a time to which he is not accustomed to waking, and invites him to a “private dinner party” at her parents home. The next evening, Gogol takes a cab to the home of the Ratliffs. He arrives at a large, elegant home, one which he, himself has never lived in. Gogol enters the home and is greeted by very minimal and modern furnishings. At dinner, Gogol meets Maxine’s parents, Gerald and Lydia.
Maxine’s parents are the opposite of Gogol’s own. Gerald and Lydia are very academic, and prefer to spend the majority of their time engaged in a debate instead of doing domestic activities. Aside from their “unusual” priorities, Gerald and Lydia are very careless and in love and are not afraid to show it through various acts of affection, which is something that Gogol never witnessed between his own parents. They do not seem like parental figures to Maxine, merely roommates. At Maxine’s dinner party, not only is Gogol introduced to Maxine’s “alternative” parents, but also the world of gourmet food. At Maxine’s house, he drinks fine wine and eats food he has never before encountered. From this night on, Gogol is hooked on the Ratliff’s lifestyle.
Eventually Gogol gets absorbed into the home of the Ratliffs. He slowly reduces the time he spends with his own family and in his own apartment. Gogol becomes a member of Maxine’s family, spending nights in Maxine’s bed and enjoying breakfast with her parents. It feels like the perfect life to Gogol. Lahiri explains Gogol’s feelings towards Maxine, and her life, “From the very beginning he feels effortlessly incorporated into their lives. It is a different brand of hospitality from what he is used to; for though the Ratliff’s are generous, they are people who do not go out of their way to accommodate others, assured, in his case correctly, that is their life will appeal to him” (136). All is well in Gogol Ganguli’s life until winter comes.
When winter arrives on New York City, the Ganguli family is struck by hardship. While Gogol is busy enjoying his lavish New York lifestyle, his father, Ashoke Ganguli passes away due to a heart attack, in Cleveland, Ohio, leaving Gogol the responsibility of emptying his father’s apartment, and tending to his grieving family. After the task of emptying Ashoke’s apartment is finished, Gogol returns to the home.