Omniscient Third-Person Narrator
The use an omniscient third-person narrator in The Namesake gives the reader insight into the private thoughts of each of the novel’s characters. This narrative device allows the reader to observe both the outer and inner realities of each character. In this way, the reader truly understands the angst and anxiety that are experienced by Ashima, Gogol, and Moushumi, as well as their perceived reasons for those feelings. On the other hand, the omniscient narrator simultaneously acts as a distancing device. If the novel were told from a first-person point of view, particularly from Gogol’s perspective, then the reader would identify directly with the narrator’s actions. The book would also take on a more conversational tone, as if the reader and the first-person narrator were interacting directly. Instead, the narration becomes somewhat static, matter-of-factly relating Gogol’s actions and thoughts over the course of thirty years. Indeed, this approach leaves the reader with a greater awareness of the fact that a story is being told. Thus, the reader becomes somewhat more distanced from the characters’ lives and realities, as they are being held at arm’s length by the book’s narrative approach.
Originally a musical term, a motif is a thought or idea that appears repeatedly throughout a work. The importance of names and their origins is one of many motifs in The Namesake. In fact, it is the force that drives and informs the entire narrative. Indeed, while Gogol’s name is a particularly strong motif, motifs in general act to bind together a work, adding continuity and thematic resonance. Another important motif in the novel is that of the train, and even of the train’s odd pairing with love and death. For instance, Ashoke’s train accident is of obvious significance, and that significance is underscored by Gogol’s frequent use of the train to visit with his family. Indeed, Gogol meets his first love on the train, and his marriage also falls apart on the train. When Gogol and his family are traveling by train through India, a man is murdered in another car. When Gogol heads home on the train Thanksgiving break of his senior year, someone commits suicide by jumping on the tracks. This latter incident causes Gogol to be late, and Ashoke sits alone at the station, worrying that the same fate that once befell him may have befallen his son. Indeed, it is Ashoke’s relief following this worry that spurs him to reveal the true meaning behind his son’s name.
Sara Constantakis (Editor), Novels for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 31, Jhumpa Lahiri, Published by Gale, Cengage Learning, 2010.