Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Rusdie and Lahiri

Salman Rushdie's East, West portrays characters with various ethnic backgrounds who harbor dual infatuations with two cultures. Indian characters such as Mustafa and Ms. Rehana express their torn sense of self-identity that fluctuates based on the discrepancies between Indian and English culture. The characters in these short stories experience the confusion of cultivating a persona among two differing cultures. Contrasting social norms and cultural values cause strain on one's sense of personal identity. Characters such as Mary from "The Courter" express a longing to return home throughout the duration of the story. Her ultimate decision to return home is prompted by the untimely death of the protagonist, as well as her underlying affinity for India that surpasses her love for England.

The novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri correlates with the principle themes of these short stories, as well as the majority of works covered in this class. It tells the story of a Bengali couple who settles in Cambridge MA after having their only son Gogol. An important theme throughout the text is the significance of names and the role they play in cultivating our identities. Bengali culture denotes that children be given a nickname or "pet name" that more or less serves as a term of endearment intended to be used only by the family. Gogol's parents attempt to give him a more Americanized name while at school much to his dismay. The young boy's reluctance to give up his pet name correlates with the notion of not wanting to forsake one's homeland due to the familiarity and comfort they provide. As Gogol matures, he gradually seeks to assimilate into the social culture of his high school and college. During this portion of the novel, Gogol begins to hate his name because it promotes his difference or "otherness" to the American culture he so desperately seeks to join. His assimilation into that culture is solidified by his marriage to an American woman who further helps him adapt to American culture in a way his parents never could. The notion of Homeland assimilation by generational progression is demonstrated in The Namesake.

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