What Mel Talks about When He Talks about Love.
Raymond Carver's story "What We Talk about When We Talk about Love" begins with two couples, Mel and Terri and Nick and Laura, sitting at the kitchen table talking and drinking gin. Carver uses the character of Mel McGinnis, who becomes noticeably antagonized by the conversation the four are having about love, first with the story of Ed, then with his monologue about what do they really know about love, and ends with the story of the old couple, to convince his readers to believe that the kind of love the old couple share is the highest form of love. Mel seems to be captivated with the idea that "real love was nothing less than spiritual love."(3).
Ed and Terri's relationship did not include what most people call love. Ed was physically abusive towards Terri during the course of their relationship. When Terri left Ed and moved in with Mel, he threatened and harassed both of them. He also tried twice, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide. Since Mel thinks that spiritual love is the only kind of real love he cannot comprehend that his wife's abusive ex-husband, Ed, could possibly have loved her while he was dragging her around the room by her ankles. "That's not love, and you know it," Mel says. "I don't know what you'd call it, but I sure know you wouldn't call it love."(6) When Terri insisted on sitting by Ed's hospital bed as he lay dying Mel was infuriated because he did not believe that there could have been any real love between them and he could not conceive any rational reason as to why she would sit by the bed of the man who beat and threatened her. .
Mel begins his monologue "what do any of us really know about love? It seems to me that we are just beginners at love. We say we love each other and we do, I don't doubt it."(57) As Mel continues to talk about physical love; it being what actually draws you to another person. "Carnal love and, well, call it sentimental love, the day-to-day caring about the other person.