Understanding Oneself

A major characteristic in the novel is the clash between Bengali and Western culture. Since a foreigner is not used to diverse cultures, they feel left out and confused and want to go back to their original country where they are familiar with the culture, customs, and lifestyles. In the book Ashima came to America because she was married to her husband Ashoke who lived there. Since she wasn’t familiar with the American culture and lifestyles, she didn’t want to raise her children in a country that she wasn’t familiar with. Throughout the novel, she constantly tries to bring Bengali culture where ever she goes. For example, when Gogol was born, she celebrated the 6-month baby ritual. During this ritual, a plate is offered to the baby which contains objects that determine their future, such as cash meaning the child would be rich.
In the story, the main character Gogol struggles to find his personal identity. Gogol has difficulty coping with his namesake because he doesn’t understand the story behind it. He changes his name to Nikhil to avoid the embarrassment behind Gogol. Under his new identity, Nikhil participates in events he wouldn’t do so otherwise – have sex, drink, disobey his parents, and separate himself from his family. By the climax of the novel, Nikhil must learn to come to terms with who he is to help his loved ones and cope with his guilt.