Study Guide

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Violence

By Raymond Carver


Then Terri said, "He beat me up one night. He dragged me around the living room by my ankles. He kept saying, 'I love you, I love you, you b****. […] My head kept knocking on things." Terri looked around the table. "What do you do with a love like that?" (4)

"I love you, you b****," sounds like a bit of an oxy moron to Shmoop. If Ed loves Terri so much, how can he call her such an awful name? The strange thing is, Terri doesn't seem to think it's much of an oxy moron at all. She totally believes Ed loved her. And that's a big problem for Mel.

When I left, he drank rat poison. […] They saved his life. But his gums went crazy from it. I mean they pulled away from his teeth. After that, his teeth stood out like fangs." (16)

In addition to being violent toward Terri, Ed was violent toward himself. While this might have had something to do with his feelings for Terri, we're thinking this particular violence was probably caused by something much deeper going wrong for Ed.

"You should have seen the way we lived in those days. Like fugitives. I even bought a gun myself. Can you believe it? A guy like me?" (27)

Hey, here's an idea. Maybe the reason Mel is so upset that Terri considers Ed's feelings for her to have been love is that Ed's violent behavior had a big impact on his life, too. The guy did threaten Mel on several occasions. Maybe Mel's bothered that Terri doesn't seem more concerned for her current husband's well being. Maybe he thinks she's putting her violent ex before him.

"I sure as hell wouldn't call it love," Mel said. I mean no one knows what he did it for. I've seen a lot of suicides, and I wouldn't say anyone ever knew what they did it for." (37)

It's important to Terri to believe that Ed killed himself because he loved her. But why? Mel seems to think that this might not be the healthiest way of looking at the situation. He might be concerned that Terri is unable to separate the love Ed might have felt from her from the psychological problems that contributed to his violence and his suicide. In any case, it's a big old mess.

"The old couple, they were alive, you understand. I mean, just barely. But they had everything. Multiple fractures, internal injuries hemorrhaging, contusions, lacerations, the works, and they each of them had concussions." (70)

While Ed's violence may have been personal, the violence these old folks experience is anything but. It's random, driven by neither love nor hate. But it does affect the love between them in powerful ways, maybe even making it stronger.

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