Psychology Sample Paper on Character analysis in “The Namesake”

Character analysis in “The Namesake”

“The Namesake” is a film about the struggles of a family whose members are first-generation immigrants from West Bengal in East India to the United States. One of the key characters in the film is Gogol (Kal Penn) who is an American-born son to Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli and brother to Sonia (Das 1).

Description of selected character

Uponhis birth, Gogol is named after his father’s favorite Ukrainian author known as Nikolai Gogol. The film revolves around Gogol’s cross-cultural experiences as well as his exploration of his Indian heritage later on. Gogol grows into a complicated character who goes against his cultural background. His indifference to his cultural background is alongside his laziness and pot-smoking behavior. He is the cause of the problems witnessed in the Ganguli household. Being an American-born child, Gogol embraces the American culture and develops an interest in rock ‘n’ roll. He later studies architecture at Yale where he falls in love with an American girl by the name Maxine. In a show of his indifference to the Indian culture, Gogol brings Maxine to his parents where they are barred from publicly expressing physical affection at least as per Indian traditions. Overall, Gogol is disobedient as he falls in love with and prefers to marry white girls against the wishes of his parents and Indian traditions. He also expresses a lack of loyalty to his family when he spends all his time with Maxine’s family discussing truffles and New England architecture while his family awaits his calls at home (Das 3).

Personal History

The character of Gogol is played by the likable Indian-American, Kal Penn. Penn was born and raised in the United States, specifically in Montclair, New Jersey. His parents were Suresh Modi who was an engineer and Asmita who was a fragrance evaluator. His journey towards acting began in Freehold Regional High School District’s Performing Arts High School, and it was in this institution that he took part in theater productions. Later, he moved to Los Angeles where he studied at the UCLA’s prestigious School of Theater, Film, and Television majoring in film and sociology. Other than The Namesake, Kal Penn has played pivotal roles in films such as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and House, both produced in 2004. He is of Gujarati Indian descent despite living in America for a significant part of his life.

Emotional and behavioral tendencies

In the film, Gogol’s behavioral tendencies exhibit his dissatisfaction and disagreement with the idea of social construction of race. The notion that a person is either white or black is as a result of the social construction of race. In the United States today, it is impossible to look at blacks and not see a crime. Similarly, it is impossible to look at Hispanics of Mexicans and fail to see drug trafficking. Simply put, the idea of social construction of race implies that race is a product of social context. The idea has been imposed by powerful elements in society on those they wish to control, and therefore people from specific races are expected to act in a specific manner or not to relate with people from other races. In the film, the fact that Gogol is advised against marrying non-Indian girls conveys the idea of social construction of race (Das 2). However, Gogol goes against this idea although he succumbs to the pressure when he embraces Indian traditions. Once Gogol falls in love with Maxine, he goes ahead to introduce her to his parents. Being a modern American teenager, Gogol has no boundaries when it comes to physical affection, something that his parents firmly oppose illustrating intergenerational conflicts. In simple terms, intergenerational conflict refers to a situation where there is a level of tension or conflict between two generations such as teenagers and adults. It can also refer to the existing socioeconomic or cultural discrepancies between people of different generations. In the film, Gogol’s parents find it hard to understand his modern American perspectives from the perspectives of love, dating, and marriage. His parents feel that what Gogol does is different to what they did when they dated and married what can be seen or described as intergenerational conflicts (Das 3).

Gogol’s behavioral tendencies are also marked by his lack of respect for elders. In several cultures, having respect for elders involves among others, listening more to them, being polite, asking for their advice, visiting them, asking about their lives, and giving them a call. At some point, Gogol rebels from his family and prefers to spend all his time with Maxine’s family and fails to give his parents a call in the process. When in high school, Gogol shows a lack of respect for his parents who are his elders when he rebels from the family and indulges in pot-smoking. Like in contemporary society, no parent would wish to see their children engage in irresponsible behavior given the potential adverse impacts of the same. The situation gets worse when he sneers at his elders who try to teach him Indian ways during a visit to Calcutta (Das 3). Further, Gogol drops the name given to him by his father and calls himself “Nick” a move that illustrates the lack of respect for his father. Gogol’s emotional and behavioral tendencies also exhibit self-construal. Self-construal refers to how a person defines himself or herself independently of others. From a social psychological perspective, self-construal refers to how a person comprehends, interprets, and perceives the world surrounding him or her. People are often tasked with interpreting the world around them to make sense of the world and determine their judgments and actions. Gogol exhibits self-construal when he falls in love with Maxine, a white girl, and finds no problem when he brings her home to meet his family. In the real sense, Gogol makes an independent decision that triggers tension in his family. Being against Gogol’s decision, his parents expect him to withhold any expressions of physical affection when he brings Maxine home.

Role and culture of character

Gogol’s primary role is to highlight the disobedience of immigrant children who are often pitched in battles against tradition-bound parents from parent countries. For a significant of the film, Gogol battles the chains of the Indian tradition and expectations of his parents, and this is similar to contemporary society where parents have a hard time advising their children against marrying people of different ethnicities or races. However, Gogol encounters a different psychological experience when he embraces the Indian tradition and heritage. He later learns the need to marry a woman of Indian origin. Gogol also learns that blood ties are the strongest bonds holding together the social order when he is closer to his mother than the women with whom he falls in love.

Work Cited

Das, Subrata Kumar. “Bengali diasporic culture: A study of the film adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s” The Namesake”(2003).” The Criterion, an International Journal on English 4.2 (2013): 1-8. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from