What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

The nature of love remains elusive throughout “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” despite the characters’ best efforts to define it.

Year Published:
1981
Author:
Raymond Carver

The nature of love remains elusive throughout “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” despite the characters’ best efforts to define it. Mel tries again and again to pinpoint the meaning of love, but his examples never build up to any coherent conclusion. For example, he tells his friends about an elderly couple who nearly died in a car crash, but the conclusion of the story—the old man depressed by not being able to see his wife—merely confuses everyone.

When he asserts that he’ll tell everyone exactly what love is, he instead digresses into a muddled meditation about how strange it is that he and the others have loved more than one person. His attempts to clarify the nature of love eventually devolve into a bitter tirade against his ex-wife. He seems much more certain about what love is not and tells Terri several times that if abusive love is true love, then she “can have it.”

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