Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
Gogol’s stories are fraught with meaning. They are imbued with the trauma of Ashoke’s accident, which nearly took his life. They are strange and marvelous tales of adventures beyond Ashoke’s immediate experience, and they therefore are enticements for him to see other parts of the world. And they are the inspiration for his son’s name, a name that Gogol will carry with him for years, despite resisting it at various times in his life. By reconnecting with this volume of stories at the end of the novel, Gogol is attempting to bond with his father through time, despite his father’s loss. Gogol’s fictions present a means, then, for learning more about family, and for understanding what kind of person his father was. They are a powerful link to the past.
Similarly, the house on Pemberton Road is a space in which the Ganguli family comes together. It was not, perhaps, the home Ashima envisioned when she was a girl in Calcutta. It is cut off from other homes by a patch of lawn, and it has a “cookie-cutter” quality to it. It is a simple, suburban dwelling. But Ashima and the Gangulis fill it with family, with large meals and overflowing parties. Pemberton Road becomes an indicator of the adaptive, ever-changing nature of family, of the tendency for memories to be created in the unlikeliest of places. Ashima finds herself deeply saddened by leaving Pemberton Road, even as she knows, by the novel’s end, that she is embarking on a new phase of her life.
This spit of land, which Gogol recalls after his father’s death, exists for him only in memory. He and his father went out there together, during a family trip. They walked until they could walk no more. Ashoke turned to Gogol and told him to remember that moment, and to note that they traveled together to the end of the continent. Although Gogol made little of the memory then, he sees, as a grown man, how much this trip meant to his father. Now, with Ashoke gone, Gogol can remain close to him by calling this memory to mind—by journeying with his father into the past.