Lovers To Strangers: The Dynamics of Intimate Relationship Loss in André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name

Proceedings of The 15th International Conference on Humanities, Psychology and Social Sciences

Year: 2023



Lovers To Strangers: The Dynamics of Intimate Relationship Loss in André Aciman’s Call Me by Your Name

Saima Najib Chaudry




Grief and loss are inextricably interconnected. Every major heartbreak or life-altering loss contributes to an anguished sense of grief. This study, therefore, draws on Bowlby and Parkes’s theoretical paradigm of grief to delineate the dynamics of intimate relationship loss experienced by Elio Perlman – the protagonist of Aciman’s novel, Call Me by Your Name – following the ending of his relationship with his beloved, Oliver. The trajectory of loss experienced by Elio after Oliver’s departure, can be traced through the four phases of grief outlined by Bowlby and Parkes. These stages involve: numbing, longing, disorganization, followed by reorganization and recovery. Since grief is a complicated, non-linear phenomenon, it seldom unfolds in a sequential manner. Thus, in the aftermath of the breakup, the painful longing, nostalgia, and melancholy experienced by Elio, emerge in an overlapping fashion. As time progresses, Elio traverses the stage of shock and denial, but keeps wavering between the phases of yearning and despair. This study argues that the sorrow of the dissolution of his relationship with Oliver, intensifies every other sorrow for Elio, and becomes the painful pivot around which his life revolves. Thus, the abiding anguish experienced by Elio till the end attests to the fact that his grief remains unresolved, and despite experiencing an enhanced degree of self-awareness, Elio attains: no closure, remains fixated on Oliver’s memory and becomes preoccupied with the fact that Oliver has transformed from a lover to a potential stranger.

keywords: Bowlby and Parkes, complicated grief, melancholia, relationship dissolution, reorganization and recovery