The Impact American Culture Has On 2nd Generation Immigrants (Gogol) Compared To 1st Generation (Ashoke) Research Papers Example

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Family, Culture, United States, America, Parents, Children, Bangladesh, Love

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2021/02/06


The Namesake is a novel about a Bengali-American family that struggled to balance between the Bengali culture and the American culture. Ashoke Ganguli and his wife, Ashima relocated from Calcutta to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ashoke, an engineer by profession, adapted quickly compared to his wife who experienced a hard time fighting the American culture and, in addition, insisted on following only the Indian culture. Lahiri, the author, uses Ashoke and his wife to represent the first generation in the book. On the other hand, the author used Gogol, the son of the Ganguli, to represent the second generation of the Indian American immigrants. Lahiri depicts how the first and the second generation conflict in education, marriage, dating and finding their individual identity. This paper will analyze how the American culture has contributed to the clash between the first generation (Ashoke) and the second generation of the Indian-American community. The second generation contributes more to this conflict because; unlike the first generation, they have not been taught the skills of protecting their own culture and at the same time embracing the American culture.Identity Immigrants who live in foreign countries experience a difficult time forming their identity. This is mainly because the culture of the people in the foreign country is very different from the culture of the immigrants. Identity formation refers to the process of differentiating an individual unique personality from others in the society due to a new environment. In the process, some people either distance themselves from their original culture while others produce conflicts with other generations. This can be seen in the character Gogol and Ashoke from the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Gogol, the son of Ashoke, is from the second generation while Ashoke is from the first generation. Chowdhury states that the first generation of the Indians was taught how to maintain their Indian cultures and beliefs while living in America. These skills helped them not to be influenced by the American culture. However, the second generation was brought up in the United States, and the only culture that they were familiar with was that of the American. This made it difficult for them to uphold their culture (12). Gogol, due to the influence of the American culture, started to disobey his parents because they maintained their home in traditional manner with Indian ceremonies and food. “He grows bored of eating the same thing day after day, and one evening he discreetly pushes the remaining food to the side” (Lahiri 55). At this stage, it is evident that the first generation and the second generation have different ways in which they embrace the American culture but at the same time trying to retain the Indian culture.Culture When a child is born to the Indian immigrants in America, they introduce the child to the society and ensure he is accepted by giving him a name.
Personal names are important devices for self-definition in all cultures. It is through naming that a social group acknowledges a child’s birthright and establishes its social identity. Among the many cultural rules that exist in each society, those having to do with naming are unique because they individualize a person and at the same time identify one as a group member (Haviland, Prins, Bunnyet and Walrath 134).
The first generation was deeply rooted in the Indian culture, and they were proud of it. When Ashoke was asked to name his son after himself or one of their ancestors he chose Gogol after a Russian author called Nikkolai Gogol. In Indian traditions, the grandmother of the child’s father was the one who named the children but, in this case, the grandmother of Ashoke was in India, and there was communication barrier during those days. He says, “This tradition does not exist for Bengalis, naming a son after father or grandfather, a daughter after mother or grandmother. This sign of respect in America and Europe, this symbol of heritage and lineage, would be ridiculed in India” (Lahiri 28). However, later in the book Gogol changes his name to Nikhil so that he can comfortably fit into the American culture. This shows the extent that Gogol was willing to go to distance himself from the Indian culture, unlike his parents. His college mates and all his friends call him Nikhil while only his family calls him Gogol.Expectations The conflict between the Indian immigrants first and second generation was also fueled by the high expectations of the first generation. This happened in situations where the first generation was educated with university degrees and therefore expected their children to accomplish even more in their lives (Murray 100). In the book The Namesake, Ashoke and Ashima had very high expectations of their son, Gogol. Gogol, on the other hand, did not what his parents wanted and instead made his decisions. His parents wanted him to study engineering; however, he chose an art course. Additionally, he chose Columbia instead of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for his graduate program, which was where his parents wanted him to study. Furthermore, Gogol’s live his life just like the American, “he preferred and accepted the individualistic culture” (Lahiri 177), unlike his parents.Marriage and dating The first and the second generations had very different views on marriage and dating, which caused a conflict. In the Indian culture, issues relating to marriage and dating were taken very seriously, and involved the participation of the whole family (Murray 68). It was a taboo to date according to the Indian culture. Gogol view on dating seemed to differ with the Indian culture. At one time, he finds an American girlfriend whose family traditions are the exact opposite of his family. This is because Maxine’s family was typical Americans hence they are more Americanized. He neglects his family and focuses all his attention on his girlfriend and her family. “He did not want to go home on weekends, to go with them to pujos and Bengali parties, to remain unquestionably in their world” (Lahiri 126). His behavior in this scenario shows how he longed for a family that is different from his, in terms of their traditions. His parents, however, are not pleased with the relationship between Gogol and his Maxine girlfriend. Bengali traditions involved arranged marriages between a man and a woman. This is what the first generation followed, and it is what they wished for their children (Chowdhury 9). According to the Indian cultures, the interest of the society came first before the interest of an individual (Chowdhury 7). His parents arrange a marriage between Gogol and Moushumi, which was successful because Gogol was involved in making the decisions. However, the marriage does not last long because Gogol agreed to marry Moushumi because his family insisted but not because he wanted to.Language Despite the importance of ceremonies and food to a community, their language is equally very vital. To learn one’s mother tongue helps an individual acquire the traditional patterns of his community. Therefore, language helps to narrow the gap between different generations. Additionally, culture is a sign of cultural reality. It shows which culture one belongs to among the many cultures available out there. Immigrants living in foreign countries, for example, the United States of America, have to speak Bengali for the sake of retaining their Indian culture. They mostly use Bengali at home, and sometimes when they are not at home. In the novel, The Namesake, Ashoke, and his wife insist on speaking to their son Gogol in Bengali but he addresses them in English. Lahiri states, “He’s been lazy, addressing [them] in English” (Lahari 75). Ashoke and his wife argue that the only way their son can learn his mother language is by speaking to them or when he is at home, and as for English he can learn that when he interacts with the Americans. However, Gogol does not feel comfortable speaking in Bengali.Conclusion The Indian-American immigrants preserve their culture through eating Indian food, wearing Indian clothes, performing Indian ceremonies when a child is born, or during weddings or even death. Others ways include; speaking Indian languages and having arranged marriages. All these are used to protect, promote, and position their traditions in the many cultures in the United States of America. However, the first and the second generation portray contrasting attitude to the Indian culture. The Indian in the first generation work hard to ensure their culture is protected and passed down to future generations. The second generation, however, had a different outlook despite the education in the Indian culture they receive from their parents. The second generation is more inclined to the American culture because they interact with other American children at school. Hence, they hang between two cultures, which make them bicultural. This diversion to the American culture by the second generation upsets the first generation because they think that the Indian culture will disappear if it is practiced by the future generations.

Work Cited

Chowdhury, Nahrin. "The Assimilation of Bengali Immigrants in the United States" Web. 9April 2015<>
Haviland, William A, Prins, Harald, McBride, Bunnyet and Walrath, Dana. Cultural Anthropology: The Human Challenge. Belmont: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.
Lahiri, Jhumpa. The Namesake. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2003. Print.
Murray, Kelly. 'Negotiating Identity Among Second-Generation Indian Americans: A Collaborative Ethnography'. 2011. Web. 9 Apr. 2015. <>

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The Impact American Culture Has On 2nd Generation Immigrants (Gogol) Compared To 1st Generation (Ashoke) Research Papers Example. Free Essay Examples - Published Feb 06, 2021. Accessed December 02, 2022.

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