I would like to know what "an appeal, a right violated and invoked" means in the following sentences:

I stood.

‘I need to go,’ I said, knowing it was true. Your face, your limbs – it was as if your entire being was trying to hold itself together, almost shaking from the effort of it. I couldn’t bear to see it. I averted my eyes and slid to the door like some retreating thief, stopping in my tracks when you called my name.

It sounded like an appeal, a right violated and invoked. My hand on the door handle, my back to you, heart pulsing in my temples. I could sense the word throbbing in the air. My name, claiming me. It wrapped its fingers around my shoulders and tried to hold me back. With a terrible jolt I thrust open the door and hurried down the dark of the stairs.

In this novel which is set in the 1980's in Poland under the socialist regime, where homosexuality was socially unacceptable, the protagonist Ludwik (a university graduate) left Poland in 1981 to live in the United States of America. And he remembers what it was like back then in Poland, where he decided to leave the country after staying hard to stay in the country. And he went to the flat of his lover Janusz to report his decision. Just when Ludwik was leaving, Janusz called his name.

In this part, I would like to know what the boldfaced expression means.

I would very much appreciate your help. :)

1 Answer 1


This is an unusual way to refer to calling someone's name, which requires context from the story to understand it properly.

This passage is from Chapter 7, after the scene in Chapter 6 when Ludwik sees his lover Janusz, in the forest, making love with the girl Hania. Now Ludwik comes to Janusz's room, confronts him with what he saw, and tells Janusz that he's leaving the country. The whole conversation is about the two lovers drifting apart, Ludwik trying to convince Janusz to come with him, but both of them realising that their life paths are going in different directions. Both of them are emotional, almost breaking down, as we can see in the paragraphs you quoted in this question.

In this conversation, Ludwik is showing more determination than Janusz. He's sure that he will leave; the only question is whether Janusz will come with him or not. Even though he's having difficulty coping with the conversation, feeling full of a mental fog from their words and thoughts, he clings tight to what he knows he must do.

In this context, Janusz calling Ludwik's name is like an appeal (a plea or entreaty). He can't say what he is feeling, but that word "Ludwik" encodes thoughts like "please don't go" or "let's talk more".

Usually, between lovers, this would be a right (a moral entitlement). Janusz should have the right to call Ludwik's name and to be heard and listened to. But Ludwik feels that Janusz has violated that right, through his betrayal with Hania, yet still invokes it with his appeal now. Ludwik still feels the "claim" of Janusz calling his name, the "hold" it has over him, but he resists the temptation to stay and flees the room.

  • Dear @Randal'Thor, thank you very much for the detailed analysis. It really deepened my understanding! Then, by "violated," would it mean that Janusz tarnished/disgraced the right, which is his claim upon Ludwik? (which is in line with the third meaning of "violate," "to fail to show proper respect for."[merriam-webster.com/dictionary/violate]) And by "invoked," would it be close to the second meaning of "invoke," "to call forth by incantation : conjure" in the Merriam-Webster? [merriam-webster.com/dictionary/invoke] Dec 21, 2020 at 17:41
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    @PastaAddict I would say the second meaning of "violate" is closer: Janusz has committed a betrayal which destroyed Ludwik's trust in him. For "invoke" it's more like the first meaning: Janusz is trying to appeal to his bond with Ludwik, as if citing their love which he betrayed.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Dec 21, 2020 at 18:56

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