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What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

             Stories, be they written or on screen, usually employ setting as a backdrop and having no direct relation to the actual storyline progression. This, however, is not the case in Raymond Carver's tale "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." In this short story, a single element - sunlight - reflects(no pun intended) the progression of the story, showing a direct relation between the characters openness in talking about love, their knowledge on the subject, their mood, the point of discussion as well as their confidence in their own abilities. As we will soon see, the element of sunlight will take us into four different levels of progression, helping us to dissect and better understand its role within the story.
             In the first phase of the story, when "Sunlight filled the kitchen from the big window behind the sink" the mood in the room is one of general happiness; the two couples are joking with each other, smiling and being affectionate as we see when Nick admires Laura's fingers and also kisses her hand. (Carver 170) Their main point of discussion is about Terri's ex-boyfriend, Ed, and how mentally unstable he was. During this conversation, we see that there is no sense of openness in the discussion, as it is only Mel and Terri that speak while Laura and Nick are more reserved, content to just listen to the stories rather than partake in the conversation themselves. The one thing that everyone does share, however, is their level of knowledge on the subject of love. Mel states quite simply that "I know what I know. That's all" (Carver 170). Terri is also equally unequivocal in her understanding, saying "Say what you want to, but I know it was" when talking about Ed's love for her. (Carver 170) This also happens to be the one time early in the story that Laura shares her thoughts, stating "Well, Nick and I know what love is" to illustrate her comprehension of the subject of love.

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