What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Characters

Raymond Carver


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The characters in these stories are typically unable to deal with the downturns in their fortunes. Hopeless and desperate, they search for the something they feel is missing in their lives, without being able to find it. They are unable to satisfy their yearning, partly because it remains vague and inchoate, and partly because they lack the intellectual, emotional, and spiritual resources necessary to identify and correct their deficiencies.

Some of Carver's characters do not even attempt to improve their lot. Others, like the divorced husband in "A Serious Talk," try to reconnect themselves with former wives and families. But it is a measure of their inadequacy that they only make things worse by their pathetic efforts at reconciliation. "A Serious Talk" ends with the husband absurdly thinking that "he hoped he had made something clear. The thing was, they had to have a serious talk soon." He had, instead, completely undermined any chance of reconciliation by behaving both strangely and violently, probably out of repressed anger and bitterness — feelings he would very likely deny vociferously if brought to his attention.

(The entire section is 181 words.)


(Short Stories for Students)

Laura is Nick’s wife. They have been together for a year and a half. She is thirty five years old and a legal secretary. The narrator describes her as ‘‘easy to be with.’’ Nick’s depiction of Laura is based on the continuing ‘‘honeymoon’’ tone of their relationship. Laura’s comments and her expressions of affection for Nick are presented in marked contrast to the biting tenor of the exchanges between Terri and Mel.

Mel McGinnis
Mel is a friend of the narrator, and husband of Terri. He is a cardiologist and is described as: ‘‘forty-five years old. He was tall and rangy with curly soft hair. His face and arms were brown from the tennis he played.’’ Mel, clearly an alcoholic, is the dominant voice in the conversation between the two couples, and the tone of the conversation changes as he becomes increasingly drunk. Mel is the one who continues to focus on the question of ‘‘what we talk about when we talk about love.’’ He brings up Terri’s abusive ex-husband as a negative example of love. He then talks about an old couple who were almost killed in a car accident as an example of the ‘‘love’’ he’s talking about. Mel’s behavior also changes with his drunkenness, as ‘‘when he was sober, his gestures, all his movements, were precise, very careful.’’ As he becomes drunker, his comments to his wife take on an increasingly menacing tone, and he begins to seem...

(The entire section is 603 words.)