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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

Raymond Carver

Important Quotations Explained

Dirty Realism

How to Cite This SparkNote

1. “And the terrible thing, the terrible thing is, but the good thing too, the saving grace, you might say, is that if something happened to one of us tomorrow, I think . . . the other person, would grieve for a while, you know, but then the surviving party would go out and love again, have someone else soon enough.”

Mel makes this comment roughly halfway through the story, after he has told everyone that he’ll explain to them what love really is. Far from clarifying the matter, Mel instead points out what he considers to be love’s greatest mysteries—where love goes when one person stops loving the other and how it’s possible to fall in love again with someone new. Mel says that he knows he used to love Marjorie, his ex-wife, even though he hates her now, and he points out that Terri, Nick, and Laura have all loved other people in their pasts as well. Mel is genuinely disturbed by the mysteries he voices here; he doesn’t even know whether what he says is “terrible” or the “saving grace.” At the beginning of the story, we learn that Mel believes love is spiritual and spent five years in a seminary. His use of the phrase “saving grace” here suggests that he is invoking the divine to make sense of a difficult subject. Mel’s comments also mark a turning point in the discussion about love as the discussion becomes more series and intense for him, despite the fact that he later claims that the four are all “just talking.” This quotation reveals Mel’s struggle to understand love and his fear that love is less permanent than he would like to believe.

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