My Name is Red

My Name is Red


Orhan Pamuk

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Love, Desire, and Greed Theme Analysis

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.
Love, Desire, and Greed Theme Icon

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 be a way of loving God, a doctrine mentioned several times in the novel.

At the same time, love is also shown to be dangerous, particularly when it becomes obsessive and leads to a loss of self-control. Early in the novel, Esther comments that Shekure is so deeply in love that “she has gone clear out of her mind.” Both Hasan and Black become obsessed with Shekure, meanwhile, and behave badly as a result. Hasan attempts to rape Shekure, and Black requests that she perform oral sex on him. This enrages Shekure, who considers such an act sinful, and leads her to protest that, “lf you truly loved me, passionately and obsessively… you’d try to control yourself like a gentleman.” Shekure’s use of the words “passionately and obsessively” highlight a paradox within the issue of romantic love; even though it is supposed to lead to respect for one’s beloved and for God, in reality it can lead to sexual desires that are considered wicked and depraved.

Overall, desire is shown to be a negative and dangerous phenomenon that weakens people and leads them away from God. Enishte comments that desire is a sin because it is a way of being “arrogant before God” by “placing oneself at the centre of the world.” In the chapter entitled “I Am a Woman,” the storyteller satirically argues that Europeans lose battles against the Ottomans because their women dress in an insufficiently modest way, meaning that the men are constantly distracted and always have erections. The desire for money is also shown to be sinful, and at several points the narrators condemn artists who paint for money, instead of painting as a way of exercising their talents and honoring God’s creation. Greed has also led the Venetians to produce counterfeit coins, which has created a massive wave of inflation within Istanbul.

At the same time, the novel acknowledges that desire, envy, and greed are inescapable parts of life. Homosexual desire is a common and normalized (if morally contested) element of life in Istanbul, and it is a major element of the master-apprentice relationship through which the miniaturists hone their craft. At several points the narrators suggest that dreams are a way of expressing desires that cannot be articulated out loud, and the murderer even comments that “envy is the prime emotion in life.” Although desire and greed are shown to be dangerous and sinful, they are a fundamental part of the human condition and they coexist with more positive emotions, such as marital love, artistic creation, and religious devotion.

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Love, Desire, and Greed Quotes in My Name is Red

Below you will find the important quotes in My Name is Red related to the theme of Love, Desire, and Greed.
Chapter 3 Quotes

I heard tell that this Husret Hoja, taking matters even further, declared with spittle flying from his mouth, "Ah, my devoted believers! The drinking of coffee is an absolute sin! Our Glorious Prophet did not partake of coffee because he knew it dulled the intellect, caused ulcers, hernia and sterility; he understood that coffee was nothing but the Devil's ruse. Coffeehouses are places where pleasure-seekers and wealthy gadabouts sit knee-to-knee, involving themselves in all sorts of vulgar behavior; in fact, even before the dervish houses are closed, coffeehouses ought to be banned. Do the poor have enough money to drink coffee? Men frequent these places, become besotted with coffee and lose control of their mental faculties to the point that they actually listen to and believe what dogs and mongrels have to say.

Related Characters: The Dog (speaker), Nesrut, Hoja of Erzurum
Related Symbols: Coffee
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

Not one could approach my mastery in imbuing illustrations with the poetry of the soul, not even in gilding. I'm not bragging, but explaining this to you so you might fully understand me. Over time, jealousy becomes an element as indispensable as paint in the life of the master artist.

Related Characters: The Murderer (speaker)
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Perhaps one day someone from a distant land will listen to this story of mine. Isn't this what lies behind the desire to be inscribed in the pages of a book? Isn't it just for the sake of this delight that sultans and viziers proffer bags of gold to have their histories written? When I feel this delight, just like those beautiful women with one eye on the life within the book and one eye on the life outside, I, too, long to speak with you who are observing me from who knows which distant time and place. I'm an attractive and intelligent woman, and it pleases me that I'm being watched. And if I happen to tell a lie or two from time to time it's so you don't come to any false conclusions about me.

Related Characters: Shekure (speaker)
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

He was frightened because he suddenly understood––and perhaps desired––that Islamic artistry perfected and securely established by the old masters of Herat, would meet its end on account of the appeal of portraiture.
"However, it was as if I too wanted to feel extraordinary different and unique," he said. As if prodded by the Devil, he felt himself strongly drawn to what he feared, "How should I say it? It is as if this were a sin of desire, like growing arrogant before God, like considering oneself of utmost importance, like situating oneself at the center of the world."

Related Characters: Black (speaker), Enishte
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 49 Quotes

There was a time when Allah looked upon the world in all its uniqueness, and believing in the beauty of what he saw, bequeathed his creation to us, his servants. The duty of illustrators and of those who, loving art, gaze upon the world, is to remember the magnificence that Allah beheld and left to us. The greatest masters in each generation of painters, expending their lives and toiling until blind, strove with great effort and inspiration to attain and record the wondrous dream that Allah commanded us to see. Their work resembled Mankind recalling his own golden memories from the very beginning. Unfortunately, even the greatest masters, just like tired old men or great miniaturists gone blind from their labors, were only vaguely able to recollect random parts of that magnificent vision.

Related Characters: Black (speaker)
Page Number: 303
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 54 Quotes

My fickle heart longs for the West when I'm in the East and for the East when I’m in the West.
My other parts insist I be a woman when I'm a man and a man when I’m a woman.
How difficult it is being human, even worse is living a human’s life.
I only want to amuse myself frontside and backside, to be Eastern and Western both.

Related Characters: The Storyteller (speaker)
Page Number: 354
Explanation and Analysis: