Artboard Created with Sketch. Close Search Dialog
! Error Created with Sketch.

The Namesake

Summary Chapter 12
Summary Chapter 12

Summary

Christmas Eve. As at the beginning of Chapter 1, Ashima is making food, but this time she is at Pemberton Road, not in Cambridge. It is the family’s final holiday celebration in Massachusetts, before Ashima moves. She plans to divide her time between India and the US, six months in each location. Ashima notes to herself her pleasure at Sonia’s upcoming marriage to Ben, whom Ashima considers to be a good man. Ashima also remarks, internally, on the dissolution of Gogol and Moushumi’s marriage. She feels that, although the circumstances of their divorce are difficult, it is better for people who are no longer in love to be apart. Ashima notes to herself that such divorce was not possible in her time, back in Calcutta.

After Ashima finishes cooking, she goes upstairs to shower and get ready for the family members to arrive. She realizes that, although she will be happy to spend more time in Calcutta, she now considers Pemberton Road, where she has lived for over thirty years, to be home. It is there that she and Ashoke made a life for themselves and raised a family. Ashima worries that the new family, the Walkers, who are buying the house will change its floor plan. But she recognizes that this is an irrational concern, since the house will no longer be her own. Ashima puts on a robe and continues her preparations before the holiday meal begins.

The narrator switches to Gogol’s perspective. For the final time in the novel, he rides the train from New York City to Boston. He knows that Ashoke will not be there to pick him up at the station. He thinks to himself how far his parents traveled from home, at such a young age, and how, as an adult, he has not strayed far from his nondescript town outside Boston. His sister lived in California, he recalls, and Moushumi in Paris. But for Gogol, the Northeast has remained home. He remembers, too, the conversation with Moushumi, about a year before, on the train up to Boston for the holidays, when he caught her in a small lie about her plans, and asked her, point-blank, if she was having an affair. She told him about Dimitri, and the couple separated swiftly thereafter, although they spent the holiday in Boston in uncomfortable silence, pretending nothing was wrong for several days.

Gogol spends time at the party, taking pictures of Ashima, Sonia, and Ben, setting up the fake tree in the living room for the last time. It is a joyous occasion, but Gogol wants to have a little time alone in his room, and goes upstairs. He finds, tucked away in his old closet, the copy of The Stories of Nikolai Gogol given to him, many years before, by Ashoke. He reads, inscribed in the front: “The man who gave you his name, from the man who gave you your name.” Gogol returns to the party, but as he is mingling among family and friends, he thinks on his life, on his new job at a smaller architectural firm, where he will have more responsibilities as a designer. And he thinks ahead to that night, when he will sit with Gogol’s stories and read them. He realizes it is his opportunity, finally, to connect more fully with his father’s life, and to learn more deeply what the name “Gogol” meant to Ashoke. The novel ends.

Analysis

Lahiri brings back a number of earlier events, causing the story to end as it began. But this is not to say that the characters in The Namesake have not changed. Instead, Lahiri shows just how much Ashima, Gogol, and Sonia have gone through. Thus, the cyclical structure of the novel, in which Ashima is making food in Chapter 12 just as in Chapter 1, is a means of illustrating the change and return that characterize all human life.

Ashima is cooking for one final celebration at Pemberton Road, a place she now considers home. Calcutta will remain, for her, the location of her ancestors. Ashima will retain a spiritual connection to India, and she will live there half a year, in order to be close to the family members from whom she has been separated for years. But Sonia (and her husband Ben) and Gogol will remain in America. Accordingly, Ashima will spend half the year with them, as an acknowledgment that much of her maturation, and the entirety of her motherhood, has taken place on American soil.