Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name Summary and Analysis of Part 2: Monet’s Berm


Oliver needs to travel to B. to pick up pages from his translator and he invites Elio to come with him. They bike into town and stop to smoke cigarettes at a piazzetta (small plaza) overlooking the sea. They recall how this spot is where Mary Shelley discovered her husband’s corpse. Elio recites the Latin phrase Cor cordium, “heart of hearts,” in reference to the moment when a friend of Shelley’s cut out the corpse’s heart before cremating his body. Impressed, Oliver asks him if there’s anything he doesn’t know, and Elio alludes to his romantic attraction and frustration. Elio regrets speaking. Oliver tells him they shouldn’t speak of such things. Elio is relieved that the secrecy and shame are gone, but he laments the loss of unspoken hope for an intimate encounter with Oliver.

Elio proposes Oliver follow him to a secluded spot and Oliver accepts. They bike to the edge of a cliff, to a berm where Monet came to paint. Elio explains that this is his private spot, where he comes to read and be alone. The two converse and Oliver tells Elio that he’s very wise, that he likes his way of saying things, and that he shouldn’t put himself down. Oliver hints at his own affection for Elio but affirms that it would be wrong to pursue such feelings. The two kiss on the berm, but Oliver reaffirms afterwards that they shouldn’t do anything: he knows himself and he wouldn’t want to do anything he would feel ashamed of.

Silence and avoidance characterize the days after their encounter. Elio pines away in his desire for Oliver while hiding his true feelings. Oliver continues working on his book and traveling to B. at night to drink and gamble. One day, talking by the pool, Oliver asks Elio if he really likes him that much, and Elio openly admits his attraction. Oliver invites him to come along with him to B. to pick up a book he ordered, on the condition that neither slips into talking in romantic or philosophical speeches. The two enjoy their friendly day together, and Oliver recognizes that their synchronized avoidance is, in fact, a kind of intimacy.

Elio’s parents frequently suggest to Elio that he get out of the house and spend more time with friends. To appease them and get his mind off Oliver, he calls Marzia and asks her on a date to watch a movie in B. They stop by a bookstore, where the bookseller is drinking port with a poet who is celebrating the release of his new book, Se l’amore (If Love). Elio asks him to inscribe two copies and gifts one to Marzia. Marzia questions whether Elio is actually interested in her by questioning his reason for buying her a book, a question which Elio fails to answer to her satisfaction. That night, the two kiss in town and later have sex on a beach.

Elio can’t bear to harbor his sexual desire for Oliver anymore, and after his night with Marzia, he feels committed to slipping a note under Oliver's door asking him to talk. Oliver responds by returning his note with a message written under his, telling him to "grow up" and meet him at midnight. Oliver spends the day in anticipation. That night, Elio meets Oliver in his room; while they make love for the first time, Oliver asks Elio to call him (Oliver) by his name (Elio).

After their night together, Elio feels confused and conflicted about the future of his relationship with Oliver but discovers that while Oliver feels similarly confused, he reciprocates his feelings of affection. Elio continues his sexual relationships with both Oliver and Marzia. Marzia sees through Elio’s affectionate gestures and wishes to remain only friends; Oliver begins expressing his love for Elio openly and confesses that he had been hiding his attraction for him from the beginning because he was shy. On one day, after a sexual encounter with Marzia, Elio returns home and masturbates using a peach. When Oliver discovers him, to Elio's protest, he eats the peach in which Elio orgasmed.

As Oliver's fellowship comes to an end, he decides to spend his last three days in Italy in Rome, and Elio’s father proposes to Elio that he go along with Oliver. Both of his parents help him prepare for the trip—Elio’s father pays for Elio’s train ticket and his mother helps him pack—but neither reveals their knowledge of the love affair.


In the second section of the book, Elio's obsession escalates and he contemplates how similar the desires to have Oliver and to be him are. "How I wished I had shoulders like his. Maybe I wouldn't long for them if I had them?" encapsulates this feeling, which is both homoerotic and universal in nature. The theme of possession shows again in the scene on the piazetta when Elio brings up Percy Shelley's heart, which his wife Mary Shelley took from his corpse and kept as a keepsake for years after his corpse was discovered. Later, when he fears that Oliver might be stranded at sea on a fishing trip, he imagines taking Oliver's heart and shirt from his corpse to keep as eternal mementos. This exaggerated fantasy illustrates how Elio's obsession for Oliver is no longer a passing feeling, nor something which he'll be able to forget once Oliver is gone.

The scene on Monet's berm is visually evocative and timeless; it is the first moment in which Elio admits his feelings for Oliver, and the two share a kiss. Aciman renders the visual imagery of the scene in vivid prose, piggy-backing on the allusion to Monet's impressionist landscapes to create a scene that seems to take place inside a Monet painting, feeling as timeless as a scene on painted canvas feels. Elio mentions that this berm is his private spot to read and be alone, and he explains to Oliver that he has learned to be alone, as he believes all humans must at some point in their lives. Elio's wisdom charms Oliver. The irony of the scene rests in the fact that once Elio brings Oliver there, the berm is forever changed: it is no longer Elio's private spot but is rather forever embossed in his memory as the place where his romance with Oliver began. No longer is it the place where he learns to be alone: now, it is the place where he starts to learn to be together with someone.

Elio's relationship with Marzia is an interesting foil to his relationship with Oliver. While Elio spends hours thinking about Oliver, analyzing Oliver's actions and his own feelings towards Oliver, Elio's relationship with Marzia turns sexual without a passing thought. While it requires several pained and veiled conversations with Oliver and a large degree of hesitation and anxiety before they kiss, Elio kisses Marzia and later has sex with her without even needing to think. This points to a hidden element in his relationship with Oliver that characterizes this human experience of obsession more generally: when you feel so drawn to someone who might be your soulmate, the specters of "desire and shame" take over and physical intimacy can no longer be treated as a casual, meaningless gesture.

After Elio finally consummates his physical desire for Oliver, he enters an anxious, hesitant headspace. One could call this 'the fear of getting what you want' or 'having gotten what you wanted'. Once he finally has sex with Oliver, he has trouble even thinking about him, unsure of what happens next and how he should approach his relationship. Oliver's friendliness and reciprocated feelings, however, allow Elio to transcend this stage and enter a headspace of pure bliss, which initially manifests itself in an excess of pleasure. Elio has sex with Marzia and masturbates in the peach on the same day, releasing his feelings of joy through hedonism. When Oliver discovers the peach, Elio is initially ashamed of his excessive actions, but Oliver's ease and playfulness with the matter prove to him that Oliver accepts him on a deep level—one on which there's nothing to be ashamed of.