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Themes of Alienation in The Namesake


            ´╗┐Pulitzer Prize winner, Juhmpa Lahiri, effectively conveys the theme of the alienation experienced by immigrants assimilating into a new place and the exposure of two cultures, relative to how one's 'home' reflects on their identity in the novel, The Namesake. This bildungsroman novel, set in both India and America and which follows a Bengali family's attempts at assimilating within American culture, portrays this theme throughout. Lahiri conveys this theme through her effective use of the characterisation of all of the characters, Ashima, Ashoke, and then the children Gogol and Sonia, helping to develop each of their individual identities. As the story continues, this symbol of homes also helps to develop their identities and reveals each of their own experiences in assimilating into American culture. .
             One way Lahiri conveys the way in which a home is a reflection of one's identity, as well as the theme of the alienating experience of immigrants assimilating into America and the exposure of two cultures, is through the use of the characterisation of Ashima and the development of her identity. The experience of the Ganguli's attempts at assimilating into American culture is portrayed within Ashima's difficulty at understanding the customs around her as she clings to her correspondence with her family in India and tries to maintain the Bengali traditions she grew up with. In particular, she chooses to hold on to her traditional Bengali cooking ways throughout her life in America, retaining a part of the life she has left behind, 'Ashima has been consuming this concoction throughout her pregnancy, a humble approximation of the snack sold for pennies on Calcutta sidewalksthroughout India.' This conveys the limited development of her identity in relation to the place she resides. Whether her 'home' is in America or in Calcutta, she continues to follow traditional Bengali ways in her preparation of food.


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