Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name Literary Elements


Romance/Coming-of-Age Novel

Setting and Context

1980s Italy, on the Italian Riviera near Genoa

Narrator and Point of View

Elio narrates the story in 1st-person point of view.

Tone and Mood

Romantic, in both the erotic and poetic sense. The tone of Elio's narration is poetic, insightful, and passionate.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The protagonist of the story is Elio, a 17-year-old boy from Italy, who falls in love with his villa's summer resident, Oliver. The story lacks any clear physical antagonist, though Elio's conceptual antagonist might be something like "a dearth of self-knowledge or self-acceptance."

Major Conflict

The first half of the novel sees Elio's inability to express his obsession for Oliver as the main source of conflict. Once he does so, the conflict shifts to his frustrated desire and shame as he longs for physical intimacy with Oliver. Once Oliver departs for America, the conflict shifts again to focus on Elio's continued longing for him.


The novel's climax occurs in the second chapter of the book when Elio and Oliver have sex for the first time and Oliver asks Elio to call him (Oliver) by his (Elio's) name.


The poet's discussion of desire and the Basilica of San Clemente foreshadow the way in which Elio's experience with Oliver informs every other romantic experience he has afterwards.


Understatement is key to the way in which Elio and Oliver communicate. One of the more explicit instances of this occurs when Elio slips Oliver a note, committed to expressing his desire for a sexual encounter. Instead of stating it outright, he writes, "Can't bear the silence. We need to talk."


The story alludes to a variety of writers, poets, artists, and their works—notably, Heraclitus, Paul Celan, and Monet.


See the separate Imagery section of this ClassicNote.


One major paradox in the story occurs in Elio's contemplation on the nature of desire. He wonders if there is any difference in the desire to have someone and to be that person: both a homoerotic and universal experience.



Metonymy and Synecdoche



The author uses personification to depict places and nature; for instance, “the soft wind trailing exhalations from our garden up the stairs to my bedroom."