Does Culture Affect Identity and Behavior

A Movie-Thesis Based on the Movie: The Namesake by Mira Nair (2007) Based on the Novel By Jhumpa Lahiri Does culture affect identity and behavior? The Namesake is the story of Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli from their traditional arranged marriage in Calcutta, India, to their immigrant life in America and the family they raised in the suburbs of New York.

The film explores cultural identity and tends to reflect at key turning points in the story on the Russian “pet” name, Gogol, that Ashoke gave his son in honor of the author of a book he had been reading on a train prior to its crash.

The parents cling to their Indian heritage and watch in quiet dismay as their children embrace and favor American culture.

Though Gogol embraced his name as a child above his formal name of Nickhal, he changed it to Nick in High School after being teased and learning of the author’s dysfunctional life and asked his father why he had been given the name.

Ashoke tried to explain by giving Nick a copy of the book, The Overcoat by Gogol, but sensed that Nick was not able to relate to the depth of the gift and the meaning behind his name at that time so Ashoke ended the conversation with the statement that one day Nick would understand that they “all came from Gogol’s Overcoat. As time passed, life experiences brought the family to a turning point where Ashima began to accept the Americanized life choices her children were making, yet upon the death of his father, Nick began to reflect on how his American ways distanced him from his parents during his teenage years, and as he mourned his father’s death, he began to respect and embrace his Indian heritage and discovered the deeper meaning of the name his father gave him, which was symbolic of Ahoke’s decision to immigrate from Calcutta to the United States.

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The main themes throughout the movie are family, culture, identity, and change. The Namesake is full of examples of contrasting cultural behavior. Ashoke and Ashima willingly agreed to their arranged marriage while in contrast, their American-born children grew up to make their own life-partner choices which Ashima eventually accepted. Ashoak and Ashima are shown as bilingual, yet their children are always shown speaking only English.

Additionally, Ashima is shown throughout the movie wearing a traditional sari whereas her children are dressed American style. It is subtly implied that Ashoke and Ashima probably did not have intercourse after their arranged marriage until they arrived in New York. In contrast, Nick is shown as an adult having premarital sex, and while preparing his American girlfriend to meet his parents, he explains that Indian culture frowns upon public displays of romantic affection and that he had never seen his parents touch.

He instructs her to not kiss or touch him in his parents’ presence; however, with no disrespect intended, she quickly forgets and also innocently insults them calling them by their first names. Moushimi, The Bengali woman Nick eventually marries with his mother’s blessing, confessed to Nick that she adopted a promiscuous lifestyle while living in Paris, yet Nick does not object and instead enjoys the benefits of her uninhibited sexuality, a decision which later hurts him when he discovers she is having an extramarital affair.

A subtle, perhaps unintended message the movie implies is that a higher level of respect toward parents, sexuality, and marriage is more prevalent in Indian culture in comparison to American culture, and that immigration abroad can cause breakdown of those traditional values for immigrants’ children who are raised in America and other countries who have adopted Western Culture.

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Does Culture Affect Identity and Behavior. (2019, Dec 05). Retrieved from

Does Culture Affect Identity and Behavior
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