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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Raymond Carver

Character List

Plot Overview

Analysis of Major Characters

Mel McGinnis -  A cardiologist. Mel talks more than anyone else in the story. He and Terri have been married for four years. Mel has two children with his ex-wife, Marjorie, whom he now hates. Although Mel makes grand proclamations about knowing what love is, he ultimately reveals that he is confused and even alarmed by the elusiveness of love and devotion.

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Nick -  The narrator. Nick and Laura met at work, but Nick never says exactly what he does. He is thirty-eight and has been with Laura for about eighteen months. He doesn’t say much in the story, but the observations he makes about the changing light, amount of remaining gin, and sound of beating hearts gives the story its rhythm.

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Laura -  Nick’s wife. Laura, thirty-five, is a legal secretary. She barely speaks at all in the story other than to say that she and Nick understand love and, at the end, that she’s hungry. But her gentle physical interactions with Nick—holding hands, touching knees—give a glimpse of what love means to her.
Terri -  Mel’s wife. Terri used to live with an abusive boyfriend named Ed who tried to kill her. Even though Ed later threatened her and Mel before killing himself, Terri believes that Ed truly loved her. Everyone seems to disagree with how she defines love, but her ideas are clearer than anyone else’s.

Read an in-depth analysis of Terri.

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