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”The Namesake” by Jhumpa Lahiri

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1168
  • Category: Culture

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Belonging is an inevitable human condition which empowers an individual for better or sometimes for worse. An individual’s perceptions of belonging evolve in response to the passage of time and interaction with their world. It is a condition which is portrayed through the novel the Namesake, by Jhumpa Lahiri, and the cult movie The Breakfast Club directed by John Hughes which encapsulate the struggles and journey’s of both feelings through the passage of time.

In the literary text the dynamic characters illuminate the idea and challenges of belonging. Ashima a female who is of Indian decent is an integral protagonist that experiences the difficulties of belonging. Of Indian heritage that once lived with her family in Calcutta she makes the formidable migration of America following her new husband. Moving to the Americas was a monumental discovery of the unknown. It meant abandoning her culture, native tongue, people, past and significant memories that composed her identity. Ashima’s confronted weaknesses of being afraid of letting go of her culture and loosing herself in the “foreign” , ”deserted land”. However as time passed Ashima learns to balance out the cultures and live semi parallel lives/lifestyles and finally accepts both cultures and achieving the sense of belonging she was struggling to come to terms with as “Ashima has decided to spend six months of her life in India and six months in the States”.

An example of such confronting events include the chapter where Ashima pulls out her “Desh Magazine” from Calcutta “not brining herself to throw away” in America symbolically represents her strong connection back to India Calcutta and her connection to her strong culture, she is still clinging to, unable to let go. Not only has Ashima bought “Desh Magazines” back from Calcutta, she continues to “wear nothing but saris” to maintain her culture and identity, whereas Ashoke her husband “accustomed to wearing tailor-made pants and shirts all his life” represents how Ashoke has blended in the American culture and Ashima is afraid of letting go. Ashoke taking the steps to assimilate, melts into the new western society evolved in response to the passage of time and interaction within the world, whilst Ashima merely finding a way to integrate/ live side by side.

Ashima feels alienated in the suburbs. This alienation of being a “foreigner” is compared to “a sort of lifelong pregnancy,” because it is “a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts… something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect”, because sometimes the passage of time may be the worst for some individuals where they are unable to belong, whereas it could be the best where they have/ are able to achieve the sense of belonging they were struggling to attain.

Another reference to Ashima’s disconnection to belonging is her being in labor in an American hospital has disconnected her from her cultural identity. This experience proved to be self destructive, even spiritually disabling as she entered an array of difficult, physically exposed yet abandoned by a “thick curtain” from the rest of the women undergoing the same experience. Ashima hopes of feeling united with the other mothers was hastily executed by the pulling of the curtain that created a single room divided from the world. Ashima associated this happening to her homeland and was travelling back in her mind analyzing the way women endured childbirth in their family homes as opposed to bland white secluded hospital room, conveys her total disconnection with the American world, not wanting to move along with the “American time”.

An individual’s perceptions of belonging evolving through the passage of time can also be seen through the film The Breakfast Club. There are five pupils from different social, family and cultural backgrounds, who rediscover their identities in a one day Saturday detention. The students breakdown their insecurities, share their emotional ties, and express their ideas, and in the end come to as astounding epiphany. “But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain, and an athlete, and a basket case, a princess and a criminal.”

All characters share their experiences and discover that belonging through difference creates a united identity just through time. The disjointed teenagers end up discovering that they have a lot more in common that what they thought or what society makes them think. They are all individuals in their own right with varying responsibilities that are made to believe they strictly belong to separate groups in school and in society. Society is their core reason of disconnection from themselves and the interaction with their world. The five pupils differenced was their actual formula to belonging. Through each other and finding themselves all having the same journey towards adulthood.

The movie depicts the tale upon an effective cinematic backdrop. Techniques highlight the influential theme of belonging, rediscovery and identity through the smooth soundtrack and the powerful dialogue that immerses the characters into real life. The smooth soundtrack appeals to the intended audience ( the young stereo typed adolescents teen) as it represents acceptance, individualism and freedom. Throughout the film the soundtrack changes as from the beginning it was all different tones, creating a confused mood, however through the passage of time the soundtrack blends in together showing the connection/ bond the teenagers have created. The powerful dialogue is significant in the film as it is an avenue to expose the characters traits and would not change to the society’s expectations. For example the dialogue between Mr. Vernon and Bender where Bender says “Eat my shorts!”, which shows Benders outside personality, whereas towards his friends his personality/ tone changes to be softer and calmer.

The literary text and film both have similar concepts and ideas related to the worldly motif of belonging. The central character Gogol is destroyed by the social expectations and conditioning of the cultures around him that leaves him in a state of confusion, unable to nail himself to a place, person, or identity. Through the passage of time, Gogol forms relationships to fulfill his craving to belong apart of. For instance his relationship with Maxine. Maxine was not his love affair but the l8fe that she bought with her appealed to his lack of belonging and contentment with his own culture/heritage. Similar to Gogol with the disjointed personally, the teenagers in the film are a mosaic multiple identity trying to find themselves and accept that their separate uniqueness is the actual formula to belonging.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, and the cult movie The Breakfast Club, trace the developments of the characters through their journey’s searching for their sense of belonging in the world. Both these texts proved that an individual’s perceptions of belonging evolve in response to the passage of time and interaction with their world. Without time and interaction, no individual can achieve belonging to groups, places or even have a stable identity, making perceptions about belonging change.

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