What We Talk When We Talk About Love?

1 January 2017

If Mel believes his view of the elderly couple is true love then who is this author to say that it’s an “emotional immaturity? ” Especially, when Campbell also states that “the reader can rightly infer that nothing he has ever felt as love could be favorably compared with what he found in the elderly man who was depressed because he couldn’t see his wife. ” It makes no sense for him to say Mel is emotionally immature, then turn it around and say that the reader can rightly infer that all of the loves Mel speaks about don’t even compare to the elderly couple’s love.

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I believe that out of all the loves Mel talks about, that is the one that should make him seem less immature emotionally. If he wanted to bring up the immaturity of Mel then he should’ve mentioned how he wanted to kill his ex- wife with bees or just his alcoholism in general. I think Campbell overlooks the fact that no one can express what true love is and anyone’s idea on what it is, is just as good as any other. Meyer, Adam. “The Middle Years: ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,’ Raymond Carver. 1995. 86-87. Rpt. n Short Stories for Students, Vol. 12. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. Adam Meyer presents an essay that describes Raymond Carver’s writing style and how “What We Talk When We Talk About Love” is Carver’s most exaggerated form of minimalism. Although Carver eventually reacted against this extremely pared-down-style, “this story continues to embody minimalism at its most distinctive” Meyer says. He describes how language is used so sparingly and the plots so minimal that the story at first seems to “have no life in them. Meyer goes on to tell how the characters frequently have no names or just first names and are so briefly described that they appear to have no physical presence, and certainly have no distinct identity. He discusses how Carver told an interviewer that the texts in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” were “so pared down,” and everything he thought he could live without he just got rid of, or “cut out. ”. Meyer tells how Carver was urged by his editor to take out anything he could take out, as doing so will make the work stronger.

This is based in Ernest Hemmingway’s “theory of omission. ” “Pare, pare, and pare some more” his editor told him. Meyer then moves into the summary of the story stating that “Although its plot is rather thin, several of the obsessions that have run through the story–the difficulty of sustaining relationships, the effect of alcoholism as a contributing factor to that difficulty, the problem of communication–are given their most extensive treatment. ” He tells of how the old couple in the hospital could symbolize for Mel what a sign of a stable and long-lasting love is. Meyer also discusses his houghts on Mel and Terri’s relationship, bringing up how they start to argue more openly as the night unfolds, like when Terri kids Mel about sounding drunk, and Mel quietly responds, “Just shut up for once in your life…. Will you do me a favor and do that for a minute? ” He views Mel and Terri’s relationship as “disintegrating,” and their marriage at a stale state, while viewing Nick and Laura as “still glowing newlyweds” who are in the “first throes of love. ” Meyer ends his essay with, ‘the relative articulateness of these characters by no means enables them to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

The only resolution reached in this version of the symposium is that we really have no idea “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love”. ’ This is by far the best critical essay I have read On Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. ” Meyer takes into account what Carver was going through personally and what he was urged to do by his associates to make this story work. Instead of arguing that nothing happens like previous essays he understands that a lot is being said even though it has a minimal plot.

I like how he gives you actual research of Carver and shows that he analyzed the author’s background and writing style before jumping into conclusions of what the story is about. I also like how he sees the different obsessions the story offers such as the difficulty of sustaining relationships, the effect of alcoholism as a contributing factor to that difficulty, and the problem of communication in the story. His analysis of the characters are fair and not over analyzed and carefully comes to the proper conclusion of the story when he takes Mel’s question of “What do any of us really know about love? ” and answers it with “not very much. Brent, Liz. “Critical Essay on ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’. ” Short Stories for Students. Vol. 12. 2001. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. Liz Brent takes Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” and dissects the character of Mel to a point where it seems he like is heartbroken man that protects himself from being hurt again. She claims that Carver demonstrates that the surface level of the conversation of the four characters is only the tip of the emotional iceberg. Brent talks about the figurative language used by Mel and how it’s expressive of his own feelings about the subject of love.

The author uses the image of the human “heart” and how it takes on figurative connotations in the story as it is referred to both in the mechanical sense, of the functioning of the human heart, and the symbolic sense, as the organ of love. She believes that the opening sentences of the story, in retrospect, play on the irony of Mel, a heart doctor, claiming to be an expert on matters of the heart. Brent also gives examples of another central element of figurative speech in this story revolving around Mel mentioning, if he could come back in a different life, he would want to be a “knight. She says that Mel’s fascination with the armor worn by a knight is perhaps a heavy-handed image of Mel’s need to protect himself emotionally against the ravages of love. ” She continues on stating that Mel explains “You were pretty safe wearing all that armor. ” She claims the image is extended to suggest that Mel’s protective emotional armor has failed to protect him against the dangers of new love: “It was all right being a knight until gunpowder and muskets and pistols came along. Brent then explains how Mel goes on to expand upon his fascination with the protective armor of knights: “what I liked about knights, besides their ladies, was that they had that suit of armor, you know, and they couldn’t get hurt very easy. ” From that, Brent came to the conclusion that Mel is expressing a desire to be protected from getting “hurt” at an emotional level in his relationships with others. As she stays on the same theme she discusses how Mel later uses the imagery of a beekeeper’s protective clothing to express a similar desire for some form of protection from love.

She claims that the armor imagery is echoed here in his description of the beekeeper’s protective clothing: “Sometimes I think I’ll go there dressed like a beekeeper. You know, that hat that’s like a helmet with the plate that comes down over your face, the big gloves, and the padded coat? I’ll knock on the door and let loose a hive of bees in the house. ” She concludes her essay by saying, “Although Carver is considered a minimalist writer, whose stories take on meaning more in what is not said than what is said, his use of figurative language gives depth to his stories by expanding upon their central themes. Although I believe this another example of over analyzing the character of Mel as well, it seems to be a good theory on whom Mel is. I never looked at those words and thought he was protecting his heart in some way, but after reading this, I believe maybe he was. Brent does a good job analyzing the words spoken and seems to carefully craft a conclusion on why he is saying those things. I don’t agree with all of her thoughts on the figurative language topic, but to dissect words and put another meaning to them is something I wouldn’t do but something I still enjoyed reading.

I also like that she’s not critical of Carver like other authors, and simply suggests what she thinks are some hidden messages through Mel’s words. I can see Carver looking at this and laughing but I can also see him walking away saying, I did mean it to come out that way, which shows a lot of thought and effort went into her analysis of Mel. Overall Brent does a wonderful job of looking deep into the meanings of Mel’s words and shows that words can be twisted into whatever meaning you want them to have and make the story that much better.

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