One of the prominent themes in this masterful book by Pamuk is the way in which the Turkish people struggle to create their own distinct and separate identity as a nation. The novel presents Turks as not really being sure of who they actually are. Characters are shown to mimic and ape Western norms and manners, but this is only recognised as being something of a fake identity that is not authentically Turkish. The interweaving of Turkish culture with Western culture is therefore a key element in this novel as the hybrid identity of Turks is explored. Note how the narrator points to this sense of struggling to find an authentic identity in the following quote:
They, like me, like all of us, had, once upon a time, in a past so far away it seemed like heaven, caught by chance a glimpse of an inner essence, only to forget what it was. It was this lost memory that pained us, reduced us to ruins, though still we struggled to be ourselves.
This quote ascertains the sense of loss that is part of being Turkish: to be part of a nation with a rich cultural heritage that has diminished in importance in recent centuries leaves the Turks with a certain sense of cultural difficulty as they struggle to express that identity alongside the cultural invasion of Western norms and values into Turkey.