Raymond Carver’s ‘What We Talk About, When We Talk about Love’ is the titular story of his 1980s short story collection that had great influence on a generation of short story writers. The collection and the story specifically consider the extent that in contemporary…
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scientifically rigorous in their characterization of the concept, however they disagree on what constitutes love and to what extent the traditional concept of true love is the same today as it was in past generations. This essay considers these perspectives in regards to Raymond Carver’s short story and offers its own unique perspective on the concept of ‘true love’.
Raymond Carver’s short story ‘What We Talk About, When We Talk about Love’ examines the concept of love from a number of angles. One such formulation is presented by Mel’s wife Terri. Terri describes a relationship she had with her former husband Ed who used to abuse her because he couldn’t gain total control over her. Later in the story Mel posits a different version of love wherein a senior citizen couple gets in a traffic accident and the husband is in despair because he is unable to turn his head to view his wife. While the story presents these concepts a different types of love, they actually function very similar in logically supporting their claims. These are examples where ‘true love’ is understood by its intensity of expression. That love is not a medical or scientific example, but is an intensity of feeling that is surfaces in things such as the example described.
Throughout the conversation Nick and Laura remain passive participants and are in great part dominated by Mel. The story notes that Mel is a cardiologist -- that is, a doctor used to formulating medical prescriptions and categorizing human functions. It follows that he would be the most confident in overtly defining what ‘love is’. In a sense, Mel believes that love can be understood and defined through reason: love is passionate intensity; love is deep devotion, etc. When Nick and Laura respond to the question they nudge each other under the table and then Nick takes Laura’s hand and kisses it. This is an understanding of love that is not defined but felt. Nick and Laura are not able to define their
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