What We Talk About, When We Talk About Love
Intoxicated Love In Raymond Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About, When We Talk About love,” two couples begin a conversation on the topic about love over a full evening of drinking gin. (As the conversation goes on, the couples continue to drink until there is no more gin left. ) Carver uses the bright sun and drinking, as symbolisms throughout the story to illustrate the theme. (The consumption of alcohol has the power to affect one’s own thoughts and opinions on a topic that does not have an explicit definition. Carver begins the story in the early evening while the sun is still bright. He specifically introduces one of the characters, Mel, who is mentioned to be a cardiologist and fascinatingly, has plenty to say about love. Once the evening starts, while the sun still bright and the gin being passed around the table, they begin to talk about love. As the couples keep drinking, one couple, Mel and Terrie try to interpret their own meaning of love.
Mel, being married twice already thought “real love was nothing less than spiritual love” (pg1). His idea on love was different than Terrie’s. From her past experience, she believes her ex-abusive boyfriend loved her so much he tried to kill her. Evidently, the two have complete opposite opinions on what love is and they begin to argue back and forth about Terrie’s perspective on love, concluding if having an abusive relationship is real love or not. As they become more intoxicated, their thoughts and opinions on love develop confusion.
The other couple does not have much to say other than expressing their thoughts on love by being affectionate towards each other. Everyone at the table continues to drink gin in order to complete their talk about love. However, the gin creates complex meanings of love between both couples. Carver conveyed in the beginning of the story, “the sunlight filled the kitchen from the big window behind the sink” (pg1). The sun, being part of the setting, symbolizes the uncertainty and misunderstanding as the sun sets and the evening becomes dark.
Terrie and Mel argue immensely over whether her ex’s abusiveness was real love or not. Terrie explains to her friends the tragic events that happened in the past with her violent ex, but Terrie having lots of confidence, truly believed it was true love. Mel than begins to express his opinion by clarifying love as “Carnal love and, well, call it sentimental love, the day-to-day caring about the other person” (pg 5). However, he contradicts himself by conveying how much he hates his ex-wife who he “once loved more than life itself” (pg 5).
This being a tough subject, Mel brought out more gin and the topic of love still arose as Mel spoke about an older couple who were in a car accident and the thought of the couple never seeing each other again supported his view on real love. While telling the story, Mel makes sure to stop every once in a while to chug more gin down his throat, then continues to keep speaking. From time to time, Terrie interrupted Mel and called him out by saying, “Don’t talk like you’re drunk if you’re not drunk” (pg 6), considering Mel denying his intoxication.
Towards the end of the story, the night is dark and both couples are pretty intoxicated, still with no conclusion on the definition of love. They continue their talk and Mel’s attitude becomes less friendly and more eager to get to the perfect meaning of love by telling Terrie “Just shut up for once in your life” (pg 6). However, it seems clear that none of the couples can agree on the meaning of love from each other’s past experiences even though each person believes in their own perspective of love. The only way the conversation comes to a complete stop is when the gin is finally gone and there is none left to continue their talk.
The night ends as the couples are intoxicated and still unclear of what defines true love. In conclusion, Terrie and Mel significantly pin pointed their views on love while the other couple, Nick and Laura listened while being intoxicated. Carver didn’t drastically insinuate Nick and Laura’s perspectives on love; perhaps they were practically new to it. Essentially, the short story’s theme conveys gin being the absolute purpose for the ongoing conversation about love and the dark night representing the loss of clarity on the subject of love.