Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name Quotes and Analysis


Oliver, 8

Elio remarks how he's never heard anyone use this word to say goodbye before. The tone with which Oliver delivers it, always as he's turning away from someone, seems at first to conceal indifference and dismissiveness. Elio projects his feelings of insecurity onto this farewell, but he later comes to learn from his parents that Oliver's farewell is the gesture of a shy man.

"Sometimes the only way to understand an artist is to wear his shoes, to get inside him. Then everything else flows naturally."

Elio, 42

Elio says this phrase when Oliver asks him how he learned to play the piano so well. Elio himself possesses the virtuosic ability to transcribe music and improvise pieces in the style of other composers, and even take those transcriptions and transform them through the style of an additional composer.

The gesture reflects Elio's desire to both have Oliver and be Oliver. He puts on the styles of other composers in his music similar to how he puts on Oliver's bathing suit when nobody is in the house, or how he keeps and wears Oliver's blue shirt, as a way to contemplate his own desire from his lover's point of view.

"I’m not wise at all. I told you, I know nothing. I know books, and I know how to string words together—it doesn’t mean I know how to speak about the things that matter most to me."

Elio, 57

Elio doesn’t consider himself wise, although Oliver notes with sarcasm that there is hardly anything in the world the boy doesn’t know about. Elio tries to convince Oliver that the fact that he reads a lot doesn’t mean he is wise: he can’t speak the things that are really important to him. Despite this, Oliver considers Elio's wisdom his "most winning trait."

I liked how our minds seemed to travel in parallel, how we instantly inferred what words the other was toying with but at the last moment held back.

Elio, 12

Elio recognizes that he and Oliver are soul brothers. Both of them are able to communicate as much through silence as they can with words. Additionally, both possess the habit of withholding exactly what they wish to say at the last second, illustrating how, beyond Oliver's confident, indifferent exterior, he is just as shy as Elio is.

But it was the gold necklace and the Star of David with a golden mezuzah on his neck that told me here was something more compelling than anything I wanted from him, for it bound us and remind me that, while everything else conspired to make us the two most dissimilar beings, this at least transcended all differences.

Elio, 18

Elio's discovery of Oliver's confidence about his Jewish identity is the only thing stronger than his desire for him. Before meeting Oliver, Elio considers himself a "Jew of discretion," a phrase coined by his mother. While he doesn't repress his Jewish identity in a majority Catholic country, he makes a point of not showing it either. This discovery both emboldens Elio and makes him feel closer to Oliver.

I had wanted other men my age before and had slept with women. But before he'd stepped out of the cab and walked into our home, it would never have seemed remotely possible that someone so thoroughly okay with himself might want me to share his body as much as I ached to yield up mine.

Elio, 22

Elio makes a distinction between his prior sexual experience and the novelty of his experience with Oliver, which is marked by a desire and passion he has never felt before. The first line sets up the expectation that the novelty of his experience with Oliver rests on the fact that it is homosexual in nature, but Elio's contemplation in the second line subverts that, showing that he is contemplating something which transcends hetero- or homosexuality.

Was he my home, then, my homecoming? You are my homecoming. When I'm with you and we're well together, there is nothing more I want. You make me like who I am, who I become when you're with me, Oliver.

Elio, 39

The majority of the book is written in first-person narration from Oliver's point of view, but in this and other instances, Elio slips into second-person addressing Oliver. This has the effect of intensifying Elio's rumination and desire. This particular instance highlights Elio's realization that Oliver might be his soul mate: somebody to whom he can relate not only in terms of several shared interests and mutual feelings of romance, but also with respect to his Jewish identity. His meditation on Oliver's impact on his own identity and feeling of becoming reflects Elio's own coming-of-age and also references a more subtle theme throughout the book: pre-Socratic philosophy and the concept of 'becoming.'

But passion allows us to hide more, and at that moment on Monet's berm, if I wished to hide everything about me in this kiss, I was also desperate to forget the kiss by losing myself in it.

Elio, 60

The berm where this scene takes place is Elio's private spot. Before this scene with Oliver, he has never shared the space with anyone. Although the location "belongs" to Elio, he calls it "Monet's berm," in reference to the fact that Monet used to paint there. Characterizing the location with this allusion to Monet aids in the imagery of the scene: it is as though Elio and Oliver were inhabiting a painting by Monet. This is not only evocative in a visual sense but also temporally, as characters in a painting seem suspended in the scene timelessly. Monet's berm becomes significant later on when Oliver holds on to a postcard from Elio's room for years after his summer in Italy, which depicts the berm, and allows him to travel to this very moment as though it were occurring eternally in his memory.

But sleep would not come, and sure enough not one but two troubling thoughts, like paired specters materializing out of the fog of sleep, stood watch over me: desire and shame, the longing to throw open my window and, without thinking, run into his room stark-naked, and, on the other hand, my repeated inability to take the slightest risk to bring any of this about.

Elio, 77

Desire and shame characterize the first half of the book and the first stage of Elio's relationship with Oliver. More generally, these two "specters" lie at the heart of the experience of obsessive love, which is so powerful that it renders the lover overwhelmed by desire and also paralyzed by fear of shame, which might come if he acts upon this desire. This sets itself apart from Elio's interactions with Marzia, with whom he is not obsessed and whom he has no problem kissing or making sexual advances towards. Although he cares for her as a friend, he feels neither shame nor desire. With Oliver, however, something about his obsession creates stakes that pull Elio in different directions: to act or not to act on this obsession.

"Nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spot."

Elio's Father, 156

People often hide their weaknesses from others so as not to be hurt by them, though a fact of life is that all people possess some weakness. It sometimes happens that nature itself hurts us as much as someone else. It isn't Oliver himself who makes Elio suffer: his weak spot is his desire for Oliver, and later in his life, the gravity with which his memories of Oliver color the rest of his life.