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The Namesake

Characters Moushumi
Characters Moushumi

Gogol’s wife, Moushumi has led a complex life, and the narrator provides a glimpse of her mind through the narration, in Chapter 8, of her failed relationship with Graham, the American banker, in Paris, before Moushumi began her doctoral program at NYU. Moushumi is very intelligent and a hard worker. Like Gogol, she wishes to separate herself from the cultural freight of her Bengali heritage, without severing all ties to her parents and family friends. In brief, she wishes to make her own life, to learn a language, French, that is neither Bengali nor English, and to do research in literature, a field she has loved since she was a child.

Moushumi and Gogol fall genuinely in love, but their relationship is beset by nagging problems, including Gogol’s self-centeredness, however well-intentioned, and Moushumi’s doubts about their intellectual and emotional compatibility. Moushumi feels constrained, having married a Bengali-American like herself, and as she grows more interested in her friend’s artistic and intellectual lives in Brooklyn, Gogol feels left out. Especially because Moushumi’s friends, like Donald and Astrid, introduced Moushumi and Graham, Gogol feels that he must enjoy the things Donald, Astrid, and Graham enjoy—and Gogol finds that he cannot do this, that his interests are not theirs.

Moushumi’s affair with Dimitri, a subject of mutual flirtation from her youth, enables her to talk about to talk about literature with a likeminded individual. Their affair also provides an element of danger and intrigue to a life with Gogol that feels, for Moushumi, at times, too restrictive, too limited. Moushumi keeps the infidelity a secret from Gogol for many months, but finally Gogol suspects something, catches Moushumi in a lie (on the train up to Boston, to visit Gogol’s family), and the couples separates and, eventually, divorces. After their relationship ends, Moushumi drifts out of the novel.