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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

by Raymond Carver

Analysis: Narrator Point of View

Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?

First Person Narrator (Peripheral)

Meet Nick. He's our narrator. We say he's peripheral, or on the sidelines, because, although this is his story, he's not the main character in it—Mel is. Mel, Nick's best friend, is the one doing most of the talking, and he is the major focus of Nick's, well, focus.

In fact, although we have a narrator who drops in every now and then, much of the story comes straight out of Mel's mouth, and it's Mel's point of view on life that we know best by the time the story is over.

Nick, on the other hand, is suspiciously silent. He doesn't reveal how he feels about Terri's controversial example of what love is (Ed's abusive behavior). And he doesn't ever reveal how he feels about Mel's example of the elderly man's heart breaking because he couldn't turn his head to look at his wife in the hospital bed next to him. He just listens.

Nick doesn't tell any stories himself, but he does show us what he thinks love is. For example, Nick makes a point to show affection for Laura by touching her, kissing her and, it seems, by avoiding conflict. If they have issues, bitterness, or resentment, Nick isn't bringing it into the drinking party, or into his descriptions to the reader of their relationship.

Nick also tells us what he thinks love is, in asides that the reader reads, but that the other characters aren't aware of. He tells us, "In addition to being in love, we like each other and enjoy each other's company. [Laura] is easy to be with" (30). So love is more than just enjoying someone else's company. But that's part of it, too.

For Nick, the best example of love is what he has with Laura. It's easy—not hard. There isn't a bunch of drama and complications. For him, talking about love isn't really talking at all; it's listening.

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