My Name is Red

My Name is Red

by

Orhan Pamuk

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Themes and Colors
Storytelling, Identity, and Perspective Theme Icon
Creation vs. Representation Theme Icon
Life, Death, and Consciousness Theme Icon
Virtue vs. Sin Theme Icon
Love, Desire, and Greed Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in My Name is Red, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Storytelling, Identity, and Perspective

My Name is Red explores how identity and perspective are created through storytelling, and it conveys the idea that any one story is best understood through a multiplicity of narrative perspectives. This corresponds to the Islamic teaching that painting from a single (human) perspective is sinful, and that virtuous representation must seek to imitate the all-seeing and all-knowing gaze of Allah. The novel is divided into 59 short chapters narrated by 12 different narrators, including…

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Creation vs. Representation

The novel is built around a point of tension within the Islamic artistic tradition: the question of how to faithfully represent God’s creation. During a conversation with Black, Nuri voices the presiding religious view that “it is indeed important that a painting, through its beauty, summon us toward life's abundance, toward compassion, toward respect for the colors of the realm which God created, and toward reflection and faith.” Yet there is a precariously fine…

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Life, Death, and Consciousness

In a typical murder mystery, the dead don’t speak. However, in this novel, both Elegant and Enishte narrate from the afterlife. This inherently challenges the idea that life and death are disconnected in any absolute sense—Pamuk suggests instead that the consciousness of the soul unites life and death. Perhaps one of the most striking features of My Name is Red’s exploration of life and death is its literal interpretation of Muslim teachings about the…

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Virtue vs. Sin

The culture depicted in the novel is devoutly Muslim, and the characters are all concerned with questions of virtue and sin. Most of the characters believe in an absolute sense of morality, meaning that there are universal rules which dictate what is virtuous and what is sinful. In other words, it’s black and white: on Judgment Day, “the guilty [will be] separated from the innocent.”

Despite this common preoccupation with virtue and sin, though, there…

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Love, Desire, and Greed

Although less prominent than the themes of art, morality, and religion, love and desire also play an important role within the novel. To a certain extent, love is presented in a positive light; for example, the love between Black and Shekure and between Shekure and her children is shown to be powerful and enriching, even if it is also, at times, tumultuous. Like many other religions, Islam teaches that love for another person—if practiced properly—can…

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