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The Namesake

Characters Ashoke Ganguli
Characters Ashoke Ganguli

The reader learns less about Ashoke’s interior life than she does about Ashima’s and Gogol’s. But this does not mean that Ashoke is a “flat” or unrealistic character. Indeed, he is a quiet, sensitive, loving man, devoted to his wife and two children. He is a man of duty, understanding that he must work to support those he loves. But he is also a man willing to challenge the assumptions of what is “normal.” For, after all, Ashoke chose to study for his PhD in America, far from his family, even after they urged him to stay in India.

Ashoke’s life turns on the train accident that nearly kills him. After the accident, he resolves to travel, to see the world as Ghosh has urged him to do. The Gogol he is reading in the train leads to his son’s pet name. And the works of the Russians give to Ashoke a sense of the broadness, the complexity of the world—of life beyond the confines of Calcutta, or Massachusetts, or Ohio. Although Ashoke is a man of few words, he is a dreamer, a romantic. Ashima seems always to understand this about her husband, but Gogol learns it in earnest after his father’s death.