Free «What we talk about when we talk about love» Essay Sample


The story “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” by Raymond Carver presents the discussion of love as an elusive abstract whose meaning is completely hidden to human kind. The argument of elusiveness in the definition of love is presented strongly in the whole story. Each character in the story is seen to have had a bitter relationship with former partners, yet they claim at one point they loved each other. This analysis presents the argument that love is not an elusive abstract, it is real and truthful in order to justify that the experience of the characters in the “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” by Raymond Carver never experienced love, but something else. In this regard, the paper tries to logically explain the meaning of love and its true nature to counter the argument presented by the story.

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Summary of the story

In thestory “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” by Raymond Carver, Nick and his friend Mel McGinnis, a cardiologist, are having a discussion. They sit at Nick’s kitchen and drink gin with Terri and Laura, their wives. The story takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico. They engage in the discussion about love and the challenges experienced by the people in love. Mel in his insightful explanation believes love is divine a concept which he generally developed from the seminary. Terri mentions that before getting married to Mel, she had a relationship with Ed who threatened her life because he loved her so much. Her husband, on the other hand, dispute the argument that Ed had a love for Terri, but Terri maintains that he really did. Mel reveals to Nick and Laura that Ed whom Terri says loved her, threatened to kill them. The story takes an interesting turn when Nick takes his wife’s hand and says he does not believe whether what Ed experienced with Terri was actually love while Laura, on the other hand, contributes by saying that Nick cannot know about other people’s feeling and situations. Terri tells Ed tried to kill himself by taking a poison for rats when she left him, but later survived. Mel on his part says that Ed is dead. In his description of Mel, the narrator says that he is forty-five years old, and he is a stable man on a normal day without drinking. The question of how Ed bungled his suicide lingered in the discussion, however, Mel hardly contributes to it but says that Ed was dangerously threatening their lives.

My argument on the issue of love

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The argument presented in the story “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” by Raymond Carver that love is elusive and cannot be defined is wrong. This is because the inability of the characters in the story to define love, based on their past experiences, do not justify that love is an elusive, and its meaning is hidden to human kind. In my opinion, love is the main law of human life and it is one of the most inspiring natural actions that a human being is capable of doing. The meaning of love, therefore, disapproves the argument presented in the story. It is prudent to note that, love normally accompanies all human, fundamental actions. To start with, when a man’s teaching is full of love the people he teaches will understand more easily. Secondly, listening with love presents human being with an opportunity to hear more and with great insights. Thirdly, speaking with love; several people in our surrounding will understand our words with an incredible force. In addition, love and peace in our souls make a man rest and sleep as deep, as a child. Therefore, love is not elusive but, what we chose to experience.

The argument presented in the story by Terri who claims that Ed loved her so much, yet in the story depicts their relationship as associated with physical and emotional abuse, is wrong and unfounded. The loving partners do not abuse each other so as to justify love or neither does one partner put restrictions. People get it wrong when they associate love with material or something in return. Love is attained when we have overcome our ego, and selfish nature, since without overcoming ego no true love can be realized. Human ego creates selfishness and competing needs which makes one to be individualistic at the expense of love which propagates the values of sharing.

The experiences explained in the story, are not love but something else.It may be sexual attraction between the partners, pity, respect, the need to preserve or protect, but it's not love. In all these, the characters in the story presented as love they are not but limited human reflexes. Real love does not require anything in return but comes naturally through actions which are not only pleasing to the heart but also to the physical being. In my opinion, love comes from nature which is controlled by our spirit.  Love has nothing to do with nationality, age, sex, academic credentials, vocation, family background, or any other social and economic orientation.The things, which are associated with human physical body and mind are not associated with our real self and, therefore, have absolutely nothing associated with real love.  In my opinion, love is universal and limitless, and when one experiences limitless love, he or she is fulfilledThis argument disapproves abuse relationships presented in the story with the claim of love.

Love does not fade away as presented in the story. For instance, in the story, Mel argues that he loved his first wife but cannot explain what happened to their love. When people are full of love they are naturally compelled to share that Love with othersIn this regard, before one engage in a love relationship, he or she must have love that is when he or she can share it. It should also be noted, that when one waits to be loved, or wishing to love someone, or wondering why he or she is not in love, he or she experiences the influence of ego. Therefore, to fullyexperience the fundamental of existence, a person needs to eradicate ego to experience love. The unhappy episode, being narrated in the story, originates from characters themselves and not as a result of characteristic of love as they present it. 

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Love is also influenced by a man’s spirituality and humility. In addition, it is a sense of human strength, and it is not associated with weakness in character trait. Terri in the story endured abusive relationship with Ed in the name of love. Terri and Ed lacked the essence of spirituality which could have propelled their relationship to the next level. Spiritual meditation and humility bring an individual to the realization of oneself. This self realization helps in the process of dispelling ego and embraces the essence of love in one’s life.

The mysterious accounts of Love

The nature of love remains complex to understand in the story of “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love,” by Raymond Carver despite the characters’ unprecedented efforts to define it (Clifford, Schilb 15). In the story, Mel occasionally tries to illustrate the meaning of love, but his examples never build up to a logical conclusion of what love is. Laura and Nick claim that they know what love is all about, but cannot provide a distinct definition of it based on their convictions. They only display their love for each other by the action of physical attachment, which still reveals the mystery of love instead of revealing what it is. Similarly, Terri who claims Ed to love her is unable to explain the meaning of love. This leaves one to imagine that abusive action of Ed is what constitutes to what Terri calls love. This further makes the meaning of love elusive and mysterious.

The story presents an interesting nature of language; the four friends discuss for a while the nature of  love and even dig deep into the insights of its implications, the fact remains that they are unable to  define it logically which depicts that  language cannot adequately describe emotional, abstract subject of love. Mel has a longer period of contribution in the story, but his stories are not systematically constructed, hence could not convey his feeling and thoughts adequately. Terri, on the other hand, speaks passionately about her relationship with Ed. However, she turns to intuition to justify her claims. Terri believes that Ed loved her, despite the fact that others questioned the kind of love they shared with Ed. This is a clear demonstration that emotional feelings about love can be more powerful than an expression of words. In addition, Laura and Nick barely talk about love, but instead depict great physical attachment, which is associated with love. The author illustrates that words and language are never enough to describe and show love.


The description of love as presented by the story is flawed and misleading. This is because the characters express their earlier feeling with their former partners as the basis of definition of love. Towards this, the heated debate on the meaning and nature of love still continue. However, the analysis of the story as presented above is a comprehensive examination of what love is. Love has meaning and is not elusive as presented in the story. Love is the main law that drives human life. Lack of love in an individual presents one of the greatest challenges to human life, as depicted in the story where Ed tried to kill himself, and other characters had their relationships collapsed. The paper stipulates that love is limitless, does not fade, is a reflection of strength and is influenced by human spirituality. It presents a new a platform for further insightful research on the subject.

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