Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

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Love is undoubtedly one of the most frequently explored subjects in the literary world. Whether the focus is a confession of love, criticism of love, tale of love, or simply a tale about what love is, such literary pieces force readers to question the true meaning and value of love. Raymond Carver accomplishes this in his short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. ” As the unadorned setting and the personality of each character unfold, the reader realizes that Carver is making a grave comment on the existence of love. Carver utilizes strong contrast, imagery, and diction to ultimately suggest that love cannot be defined concretely and therefore cannot be defined in words, and because of this, it is better off unexplored. As the story opens, the reader is introduced to two couples. Nick and Laura epitomize the stereotypical “newlywed” relationship, meaning that they are still too fresh in love to realize each other’s shortcomings and question their love. Mel and Terri, on the other hand, have been together for five years, and though they still claim to love one another, a mutual underlying resentment for the other becomes evident as the story progresses. Knowing this, Nick and Laura are characterized as the young “fools in love”, and therefore, their opinions of love are not realistic. Despite Nick being the narrator, he only speaks up a few times to suggest that love is absolute. With such an outspoken narrator, Carver creates a unique situation in which Nick is overpowered in the conversation. This suggests that Nick is inexperienced with love and that his belief in his perfect loving relationship with Laura is just an illusion. Ironically enough, Mel dominates the dialogue of the story, yet he seems to be the most confused about the definition of love. His wife, Terri, speaks about her abusive ex-husband, Ed, and Mel claims that that relationship was not built on love. Several times, Mel scoffs, “If you call that love, you can have it” (174). However, it is eventually made clear that Mel knows more of what love isn’t than what love truly is. On page 178, Mel states, “…And it ought to make us feel ashamed when we talk like we know what we’re talking about when we talk about love. ” In short, Mel is suggesting that none of the characters understand love, and those who think they do (Nick and Laura) are temporarily disillusioned. Additionally, Carver invalidates Nick and Laura’s comments on love by categorizing them as new fools in love, meaning that Nick’s comment about love being absolute is far from true. The contrast of the two couples relationships suggests that there are many forms and stages of love, which further disproves its absoluteness. In conclusion, the contrast of all four characters’ views questions both the existence and the verbal definition of true love. As the story unfolds further, Mel continues to lead the group’s conversation. Carver incorporates significant imagery through this drunken character. First of all,

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