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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love


Posted on Aug 2017



 One of the best books written by Raymond Carver's is what is known as ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.'  It was written in 1981 and is made up various short stories from different authors. One of the short stories has the same title, as the book's major title. Carver's is said to be one of the best and influential American writers in the 21st century. This paper will analyze the story of ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Love' in an in-depth way, by looking at the plot and various characters. The main objective of the analysis is to bring out the love theme as evident in this story. A critical analysis of the characters and plot in Carver's story will help to understand the way the love theme is developed.

Plot Summary

            The short story ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Love' focuses on the life of four friends, Mel, Teresa, Laura, and Nick. The setting of the story is in Mel's house, where there is a table which has an ice bucket at the center. In the bucket, there is a gin bottle placed in it. When seated around the table, these four friends start a conversation about love. Terri one of the friends has been living in the relationship that is unhealthy, despite claiming it was based on love. She believes that in spite of receiving beatings and humiliations from her ex-boyfriend Ed that there was love between them. Nonetheless, Mel is opposed to the idea of love existing in Terri's relationship as he believed that it was impossible for someone to love you and at the same time abuse you in an inhumane way. After realizing that Terri and Mel were dating, Ed started stalking them and sending threatening messages. Due to fear of the threats received, Mel becomes very scared to the extent of purchasing a gun, for purposes of using it for self-defense. Mel went ahead of writing a letter to his broth living in California informing him of the threat and the person who would be held responsible in case of any harm happening to him. After making two attempts of getting back together with Terri, Ed commits suicide, and Terri is convinced that he acted that way due to love. Terri due to her believe to be with Ed in the hospital bed, but Mel was strongly opposed to the idée. However, he agreed, and Terri was in Ed's hospital bed when he died. Ed's death was caused by a gunshot in the mouth, after surviving an early suicide attempt using rat poison.

            In the process of Ed's discussion, Mel gives a story of a couple who were seriously injured in the accident. He attended to them, and they had "multiple fractures, internal injuries, hemorrhaging, contusions and lacerations" (Carver, 1994).  When they were moved to the ICU, the husband would insist that he was not comfortable as he would not see her wife. In telling this story, Mel tried to bring the point that love did not exist as Terri was trying to say in the case of Ed. He pointed out that after the death of someone, a person who was once in love after the grieving period is over, he or she will move on to love another person.

Character Analysis

            The story has four major characters.  Mel McGinnis is one of the characters and is 45 year. He is a cardiologist and seems to know about love. He has two children from the previous marriage with Marjorie, who he seems to hate with a passion. He is opposed to the idea of the existence of love but confesses about the way people are devoted to love in life. He is a rangy and tall man, whose hair is soft.

            Terri- She is the second wife of Mel. In the past was living with Ed and they ended up breaking up doing to the abusive nature of him. In spite of the abuses from Ed, Terri was of the strong opinion that Ed was truly in love with her. Nonetheless, all the other characters disagree with her notion about love.

            Laura- She is wife to Nick and is aged 35 years. She works as a legal secretary. Laura rarely speaks throughout the story. However, her action of behaving in a romantic way towards Nick, such as holding his hands indicate she is a character who understand many things about love.

            Nick- Nick is the narrator of the story. Nick is aged 38 years and married to Laura for 18 months. His contributions are minimal in the story, but his actions concerning relationship with Laura, clearly reveals the aspects of love in life.

Theme Analysis –Love

 The primary theme of this story is that of love as revealed by the behaviors of the various characters in this story. Ed is one of the character's who helps in understanding what love entails in life. Despite being abusive naturally, he ends up taking his love after being rejected by Terri, her ex-girlfriend, whom they separated due to his abusiveness. One the other hand, Terri believes that Ed was in love with her and is saddened by the action he took, of shooting himself and wants to be with him in the hospital bed. The action of Terri truly shows what true love is all about. The love should be that of caring for one another during the good and bad time. Terri shows dedication to the love she once shared with Ed by with him in the hospital bed, until his demise. Also, the act of Ed to threaten Mel because of taking his girlfriend and two attempts of committing suicide is a sign of love.

            However, the various characters in the story, Mel, Nick and Laura disagree with the perspective that Terri and Ed have toward love (Carver, 1994). They believe, especially Mel that love is all about caring for one another and one should be ready to walk away when a partner becomes abusive. Mel brings out the concept of love as something that does not exist, as one easily moves on to love another person after grieving the demise of a previous lover.

Conclusion

 Carver's story ‘What We Talk about When We Talk about Love' is one of the best regarding bringing out the meaning of love. After reading it, one gains a deeper understanding of the concept of love. The plot from the start to the end talks about love. On the other hand, the actions and behaviors of the characters, such as Ed, Mel, and Terri, play a critical role in depicting what roles means. In conclusion, critical analysis of the characters and plot in Carver's story helps to understand the way the love theme is developed throughout the story.