Hi, it’s Adam and I am so happy I finished reading this book. It was a struggle to go through this section and having to read about Gogol’s and Moushumi’s love life; however, I found the ending to be alright which I will explain more later in this post. The topics about being in a relationship and about identity stood out the most to me while I was reading these last few chapters.
One of the first things that I thought of was the idea of arranged marriage. In chapter 8, “as much as he wants to make his mother happy, [Gogol] refuses to let her set him up with someone. He refuses to go that far” (Lahiri 192). Despite Gogol wanting to follow Ashima’s wishes and therefore make her happy, he refuses to meet with Moushumi which could result in an arranged marriage. If I were Gogol, I would have done the same thing. I strongly dislike the notion of marrying because of your parents’ wishes instead of what you want. How can you deal with living with someone for a significant portion of your life everyday if you do not love them? That sort of relationship would probably not work and would likely be painful for either of them. I’ve read a few stories where a character is engaged to another because of their parents, but the former is in love with someone else. It’s such a painful situation to read because it completely sucks that the character cannot be with who they truly love. I can’t imagine myself having an arranged marriage; I would definitely refuse.
Despite Gogol initially refusing his mother’s request, he ends up falling in love with Moushumi and vice versa. Even though this was arranged, they are happy with each other (at least for now). For example, “when he kisses her head he tastes the oil that accumulates on her scalp between shampoos” (211). On this page, Gogol is happy to see what Moushumi doesn’t show to the world. Even though I found that Gogol tasting the oil on her scalp utterly repulsive, it shows the degree of his love towards her. It’s like tasting each others spit when a couple kisses. He loves Moushumi for who she is and that is great. This is what I believe love should be like, loving someone for who they are.
Moving on from the subject of love, Moushumi’s complete transformation when she lived in a new city made me wonder about myself. The author writes, “She was exactly the same person, looked and behaved the same way, and yet suddenly, in that new city, she was transformed into the kind of girl she had once envied, had believed she would never become” (215). When she was living with her parents, she mostly read books and did not interact with people that much. But when she moved to Paris, she started being a lot more social and even had affairs with men. Her transformation is quite extreme which makes me wonder how much I would change when I move out in the future. I don’t think it will be quite as extreme as her’s, but I think I will likely see a significant change especially because I will be living without my parents supervision and share a living space with complete strangers.
On the subject of change in identity, Gogol has finally changed his view on needing to be one identity or the other. He realizes that “[w]ithout people in the world to call him Gogol, […] Gogol Ganguli will, once and for all, vanish from the lips of loved ones, and so, cease to exist. Yet the thought of this eventual demise provides no sense of victory, no solace” (289). Gogol initially liked the name “Gogol” when he was younger but then he started hating Gogol because he did not want to associate himself with his Bengali identity. He ended up changing it to Nikhil which corresponds to his American identity. Nikhil was drastically different from Gogol; Gogol didn’t go out with girls, and was a “responsible” child, whereas Nikhil was the party-goer, was the one having sex with other women, and getting drunk. But now, he finds that not having someone that knows Gogol isn’t something that he wants instead of “Thank God that’s over.” Furthermore, “he starts to read [“The Overcoat”]” which shows that he has accepted his Bengali identity (291). He avoided reading this book because it was where he got his name from—he hated being Gogol before. Now that he started reading this book, he takes a step forward to being a hybrid. He starts to realize that he can’t be Nikhil or Gogol separately but rather a mix of his Bengali and American personas. Being a hybrid myself (Chinese-American), I also agree with this. Both sides are a part of my identity and they should coexist with each other.
Overall, I think Lahiri had a few good messages in this novel even though I found it boring and a struggle to read. It was quite annoying having to wait at least 200 pages for Gogol to finally accept being a hybrid and quite annoying to read about all his experiences with other women. I’m glad that I am almost done with this novel, just an essay left…
Some questions I have for you are: What do you think about the notion of arranged marriages? Would you have one? What are your thoughts on the ending of the novel? Did you like it?
Let me know in the comments below. I look forward to reading them.