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Posted on September 4th, 2012, by

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is one of the most well-known stories by Raymond Carver. Right after it was published it got wide recognition among critics and public.  This short story raises important questions and presents an insight into human perception and psychology. This short story defined minimalist style of Carver.

The story is focused on the conversation of two couples who spend their time drinking Jin before leaving for restaurant. The setting of the story does not change throughout the play. The action is also minimal. The characters do not move and the only movement is made when one of the characters of the story stands up to take the bottle of Jin. Despite the title of the story speaks about love and despite that characters also speak on the topic all the time the meaning of love is not the central theme of the story.  Two couples Terry and Mel and Nick and Laura start sharing their attitudes to love and through these judgments the readers get an idea to attitude to life in general.

Teresa, who had an experience of being in abusive relationship in the past, is sure that love is expressed through pain and abuse. She is sure that the type of relationship she had with her ex-husband illustrated the kind of love relationship two people can enjoy. Mel, Teresa’s husband gets more and more indignant while listening to his wife’s ideas about love. Mel is sure that love is a spiritual aspect of human existence and it has nothing to do with abuse, suppression and suffering.  At the same time his words are contrasted by his behavior. As conversation goes on and more and more alcohol is consumed Mel becomes rude and offensive with his wife. His words about spiritual nature of love are contrasted to his rude words during the communication with his wife. Alcohol is important part of the narration. The weather is paralleled to the changes of the state of mind of the characters and the changes of their minds are conditioned by the alcohol.

Alcohol becomes that artistic mean which helps the author to describe true relations and attitudes of the characters. The conversation becomes more frank and more open while they drink Jin. The more characters get drunk the less sun is presented in the scene. The author makes parallels between the state of their minds and the state of nature. Alcohol helps the characters to reveal their attitude to the subject of discussion and it also demonstrates their attitudes to each other. The title of the  story helps to realize the main message of the author. The subject of love becomes the main object of discussion. Very soon after the beginning of the conversation it becomes clear that different people have very different perceptions of love.  These different perceptions are conditioned by their past, personal perceptions and upbringing. Through the story several perceptions of love is given and all of them are very different. The author gives a very bright image how perceptions of different people on the same subject may differ. In reality the difference between different perceptions may be traced in everything. Carver uses love as only one of the basic notions but in reality any idea or even can be interpreted differently by different people.

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