What is the significance of Heraclitus and pre-Socratic philosophy in the love affair between Elio and Oliver?
Oliver is a scholar specializing in pre-Socratic philosophy. The philosophical concepts of 'becoming' and a 'fundamental unity of opposites' play out in Elio's romance with Oliver. Elio's experience with Oliver is transformative for both of them, reflecting the pre-Socratic notion that every person and object is always in a constant state of flux and transformation. The feeling of unity that Elio feels with Oliver collapses the perceived duality of two separate individuals: their shared experience forms a singular unified phenomenon.
Aciman avoids the terms 'gay' or 'bisexual', though the theme of sexuality is central to the novel. How does the novel choose to explore these themes instead, and why might the author have made this choice?
The novel's themes of obsession and desire are at once homoerotic and universal. While Call Me By Your Name is heralded as one of the most significant works in contemporary gay literature, Aciman renders the love story in such a way that any human being, regardless of sexual orientation, can relate to it. Other characters in the novel, like the poet in Rome, ruminate on the nature of desire as something that transcends religion, geographical point of origin, and sexuality.
How to the objects that Elio and Oliver carry with them aid in their characterization, and what deeper significance do their possessions hold?
One of Oliver's first descriptions is by the pool, where he makes a habit of setting down and leaving behind what he calls his "things": lemonade, suntan lotion, books, espadrilles, sunglasses, colored pens, and headphones. Elio similarly has a list of objects that he frequently carries: his scorebook, books, and lemonade. These items are a window into their interests and also characterize the languid Mediterranean setting in which they find themselves.
How does Elio and Oliver's trip to Rome affect the plot of the novel?
Elio remembers his trip to Rome with Elio as the height and culmination of his love affair with Oliver. Although he knows that they constitute the last three days he'll have with Oliver that summer, his experience in Rome is an answer to all the longing and desire that he'd felt for Oliver since the beginning of the book. Elio's favorite memory with Oliver originates from this trip, while Oliver kisses him on a drunken night in a square. In the years that follow, though he's no longer with Oliver, this memory shapes how he views love and desire for the rest of his life.
What do you think is the significance of the poet's story of the 'San Clemente Syndrome' in the third chapter of the novel? How do you interpret the meaning of his phrase and story, and how does it apply to the themes of the novel at large?
One can interpret the meaning of the 'San Clemente Syndrome' to mean the way in which experiences of attraction and desire exert an influence on future erotic experiences and are in turn influenced by those that came before them. This is similar to how the Basilica of San Clemente was built on a foundation of multiple layers of catacombs dating back several centuries. One can also interpret the anecdote to mean that desire and obsession are a universal human experience, timeless and undiscriminating in nature.