For Books of All Kinds

“Our only kiss was like an accident – a beautiful gasoline rainbow”

– Susan Salmon, The Lovely Bones

A perfect analogy for an accidental miracle which can also be connected to her family’s lifelong struggle for normalcy.

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In the previously read novel, The Namesake, the author Jhumpa Lahiri constructs the novel around the concept of constant time changes and shifts. Time in the novel is constantly moving forward to enable the characters to age and mature and demonstrate how their lives evolve, in this aspect the Lovely Bones is quite similar. The latter novel also employs the mechanic of changes in time, albeit at a much slower rate until the end of the novel where time moves forward quite drastically. This mechanic, when incorporated into The Lovely Bones, serves to convey the struggles of a family trying to move past a horrible tragedy and how it impacts the rest of their lives and the connections it creates between each other and when combined with the Namesake also shows just how powerful and useful time and space can be when attempting to convey meaning.

Another interesting similarity between both novels is the use of ominous and cryptic closing sentences at the end of each chapter or shift, in the case of The Lovely Bones a shift in character focus. These cryptic remarks serve to add depth to both novels but also make the theme and overall message of the author much more subtle and hard to infer as they can be interpretted in many ways.

In these two structural similarities, two dissimilar novels with radically different plots find themselves unexpectedly connected.

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.

– Rabindranath Tagore

Just a quote I came across which represents my previous post’s idea perfectly.

That is the question.

Hamlet, what a complex play it is. Being the longest of Shakespear’s works it holds a lot of significance and meaning, especially when the reader exams the character of Hamlet, whose namesake the play shares. The tragic hero of the play is constantly concerned with the theory behind his every actions, constantly examining and reexamining his every move before he  actually acts, leading to his eventual downfall. This way of life, of constant thought and no action, can be easily linked to my own endeavors in my last year of highschool.

As with all other students in my graduating year, I am fast approaching an intersection in my life where I must decide what I would like to do after the completion of my pre secondary studies. There are a world of possibilities to chose from, be it pursuing a college level degree, a university level degree, military career, or join the work force right away. Many fellow students of mine have already applied, and been accepted, to universities and colleges with a clear idea of what they would like their future to entail. However I find myself in a conundrum, unable to decide what it is I wish to pursue. In this respect I find myself connecting with Hamlet’s plight. I have been so concerned with making a mistake and regretting it, that I have fallen back on inaction instead, opting to wait a year and apply later after I find what I truly enjoy. However I now realize that my inaction will only fester and create more inaction, instead of scouring for a subject I may enjoy, I will inevitably put off the weighty decision to the last moment in which I will opt to take another year off and think some more. In short, the examination of Hamlet’s character has opened my eyes to my own indecision and the consequences that may arise because of it, empowering me to in a sense “hunker down” and come to a decision regarding my future. To be or not to be, is the question, and as with any question there must be an answer. Ottawa U here I come!

In the Namesake, the character Moushumi plays a pivotal role in Gogol’s life and therefore the novel as a whole. Due to her significance, I have decided to take a closer look at the connection between her name and her actions throughout the story. At the beginning of the novel, when Moushumi is first introduced, she is portrayed as a nerdish young Bengali girl who only knows Gogol through family friends and the two are never really close, she prefers her reading to talking to Gogol and Gogol does not seem particularly interested in her. As Gogol ages, he loses contact with Moushumi and the two meet at a bar at their parents insistence only after some 20 years have past. Gogol is shocked at how different Moushumi appears and is attracted to her immediately. The two date for a while and eventually marry, however this does not last long and within the span of 1 to 2 years, they divorce after Gogol discovers she was unfaithful.

The way Moushumi lives her life, rejecting her past and her present, is indicative of the meaning of her name, a damp southwesterly breeze. Breezes come and go quickly never keeping still, just like her willingness to abandon her past and present and move to Paris, while the dampness of the breeze is symbolic of the way her actions impact others, specifically Gogol. When she decides to have an affair with Dimitri towards the end of the novel, she never once expresses regret over her actions and leaves a permanent mark on Gogol who must now come to terms with the fact that his wife, the woman he loves , betrayed him as well as the embarrassment that comes with being the first Bengali his family knows to have an unfaithful wife. The promiscuity of Moushumi’s character can also be attributed to her name, a breeze being symbolic of the coming and going of men in her life.

To wrap it up, a clear connection can be discerned between Moushumi’s actions throughout the novel and the meaning of her name. This lends further proof to the author’s idea that the name you are given shapes the person you grow up to be – at least to a certain extent! Further examination must be conducted to prove this idea fully, however in the mean time feel free to comment on any connections I may have missed and anything else you wish to discuss, be it criticism or otherwise!

So In recent times I have been asked about the meaning of my blog. The title that is. What does “Reading Rainbow” mean? What is its significance? These questions have been asked repeatedly and with enough tenacity that I have decided to explain the meaning of the title in its entirety. I chose to name my blog “Reading Rainbow” because a rainbow is a work of beauty, encompassing all primary colors from which every other color variant imaginable stems. This can be likened to a prehistoric primordial pool where ancestral bacteria and organisms first evolved, it was the origin, the beginning. That is what I would like my blog to be, a place where literature of all sorts can be openly discussed and a place where new ideas are first formed. I would like this blog to be much more than simply my ideas and thoughts on current reads and in that case a rainbow, which in reality is an illusion of the mind and not tangible what so ever, symbolizes the ambition I hold and the hopes that I have for this blog and its fate. By the time I have finished with this blog, I hope its form will be just as beautiful as its namesake.

For my first post on my blog I decided to begin with the most central concept of the novel and discuss the namesake and meanings of the major character’s names which appear throughout the book. This will create a perfect starting point for readers and help with the analysis of the novel. If you have any suggestions or comments, leave a comment on the post!

Gogol: Meaningless, only associated namesake with Nicolai Gogol, author of the short story the Overcoat.

Ashoke: Another way to write the Indian name, Ashok, which is a modern translation of the name Ashoka which actually means “without sorrow”.

Ashima: Through biblical interpretation the name means crime or offense, however the Bengali interpretation translates to endless or without bounds.

Nikhil: This Indian name which the main character Gogol changes his name to, means whole or entire and is of Indian heritage.

Maxine: Feminine version of the name Max which is a shortened form of the name Maximilian. The long, older version Maximilian, is associated with emperors, kings, saints, generals and others throughout history of high social class and fame.

Moushumi: Described in the novel as meaning, “a damp southwesterly breeze”, it is also the namesake of a famous Bollywood actress.

Ruth: The name Ruth has many usages throughout different languages and texts, such as the bible, however the true meaning of the name is friend.

Sonia: A short form for the name Sonya, which is a Russian diminutive of the name Sophia. The original name, means wisdom and is connected to an early mythical saint who dies of grief after her three daughters were martyred. Also connected to early European royalty.

Dimitri: Has roots in the ancient Greek name Demetrius that was derived from the name of the goddess Demeter, which means earth mother. The name Demetrius was the name of several saints throughout history.

Lydia: Rooted in ancient Greek, Lydia means “from Lydia” which was a place in the New Testament. Also the name of a woman converted to Christianity by Saint Paul.

Gerald: The name originated in Germany and meant “rule of the spear”.

Donald: Originated from the Gaelic name Domhnall, which meant “ruler of the world” in Gaelic.

Astrid: The name Astrid is a modernized take on the ancient Scandinavian name Astridr meaning “god” and “Beautiful”.

Ben: A short form of either Benjamin or Benedict. The name Benjamin is cemented in early Hebrew and is found in the Old Testament. The name itself means son of the south or son of the right hand. The other possible option is Benedict, this name is Latin in origin and carries the meaning of blessed.

 

I hope these name explanations help with the reading of the novel and if any readers happen to stumble upon another major name not listed above, try inputing it into the website http://www.behindthename.com/. It has a wonderful search option which gives both the history and meaning of most names as well as major related namesakes!