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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

Violence Theme

Murder by Bees. Knights in armor getting trampled. Suicide. A highway crash. Operations. Stalking. These are all things the characters in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" talk about during their conversation on love, and they all have one thing in common: violence. Love, this story suggests, often intersects with violence, and often in surprising ways. Characters hurt each other in the name of love, love can turn to hate, and violence can, at the end of the day, reinforce love, too.

Questions About Violence

  1. How does Mel's fantasy of murdering his wife by unleashing a swarm of bees on her influence your idea of his character?
  2. Can aspects of Mel and Terri's conversation be considered violent, such as when he tells her to shut up? Why or why not? 
  3. What are the different types of violence listed in this story? Do they have anything to do with love?
  4. Can violence bring about or reinforce love? Or does it only destroy it in the story?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Ed's violent actions and Mel's dream of violence towards his ex show us that love and hate aren't all that different. In fact, they're closer together than we might like.

In "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," violence and love are completely separate, and real love doesn't ever include violence.

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