What We Talk About When We Talk About Love | Study Guide

Raymond Carver

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Course Hero. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Study Guide." Course Hero. 6 Feb. 2018. Web. 19 Aug. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/What-We-Talk-About-When-We-Talk-About-Love/>.

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Course Hero. (2018, February 6). What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved August 19, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/What-We-Talk-About-When-We-Talk-About-Love/

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Course Hero. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Study Guide." February 6, 2018. Accessed August 19, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/What-We-Talk-About-When-We-Talk-About-Love/.

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Course Hero, "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Study Guide," February 6, 2018, accessed August 19, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/What-We-Talk-About-When-We-Talk-About-Love/.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love | Characters

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Character Description
Holly In "Gazebo" Duane narrates the events leading up to the end of his marriage with Holly, a green-eyed woman who expresses her disappointment with life through alcohol abuse and suicidal behaviors. Read More
Laura Laura, a legal secretary, is married to Nick in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." She is happy in her relationship and feels she knows what love means for her. Read More
Mel McGinnis Mel McGinnis, a cardiologist, does most of the talking in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." As Mel gets drunker, his own unhappiness and relationship discontent become evident. Read More
Nick Nick is the narrator in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." He is happily married to Laura, whose hand he holds throughout the story. Read More
Photographer without hands In "Viewfinder" a man with chrome hooks for hands makes a living as an itinerant photographer of other people's houses. Read More
Sam Lawton Nancy, the narrator of "I Could See the Smallest Things," has an unexpected encounter with her neighbor Sam Lawton. Sam, a recently sober widower, indicates he wants to rekindle his ruptured friendship with Nancy's husband, Cliff. Read More
Terri Terri is Mel McGinnis's wife in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." She defends the actions of her abusive ex, Ed, claiming they loved each other, and bickers with her husband Mel throughout the evening. Read More
Albert In "The Calm" Albert is the oldest man in the barbershop waiting for his haircut. He takes issue with Charles's story about his deer hunt and starts a confrontation.
Ann Weiss Ann Weiss is the mother of eight-year-old Scotty in "The Bath." She struggles to believe the doctor who tells her that her son is not in a coma but is only sleeping.
Baby In "Popular Mechanics" the baby is the object of a struggle for physical control between the man and the woman.
Barbara In "Tell the Women We're Going" Barbara is a small, light-haired young woman bicycling down the highway with her friend, Sharon. The two are pursued by Jerry and Bill to the top of Picture Rock, where they endure Jerry's violent attack with a rock.
Bill Bill is the barber in "The Calm."
Bill Jamison Bill Jamison is Jerry Roberts's passive best friend in "Tell the Women We're Going." When Jerry suggests they go for a Sunday outing, Bill fails to anticipate the afternoon will end in Jerry's violation of two girls with a rock.
Burt In "A Serious Talk" Burt gains entrance to his ex-wife's house by convincing her he needs to talk with her. His apologies for his repeated and destructive alcoholic behavior fall flat, so Burt resorts to expressing himself symbolically through his wife's possessions.
Carl In "Everything Stuck to Him" Carl, an old family friend, invites the boy on a hunting trip.
Carol In "Tell the Women We're Going" Carol is Jerry's wife.
Charles Charles is one of the men waiting for a haircut in "The Calm." Charles, who works guarding a bank, tells a story about an unsuccessful hunt, and the other men judge him because he blames his lack of success on his son.
Charles's father In the story narrated by Charles as part of "The Calm," Charles's father joins Charles and Charles's son on a hunting trip.
Charles's son In "The Calm" Charles relates a story about an unsuccessful deer hunt with his hungover son. Charles blames his son's hangover and poor shooting for their lack of success and brags about how he hits his son.
Charlie In "A Serious Talk" a man calls Vera's house repeatedly. When Burt answers the phone, the man asks to speak to Charlie, a name Vera apparently uses as code for herself.
Claire Claire, the narrator and protagonist in "So Much Water So Close to Home," is suspicious of her husband, Stuart, when he returns home from a fishing trip where he encountered a female corpse.
Clifford In "I Could See the Smallest Things" Clifford is Nancy's husband, who has continued to drink even after it ruined his friendship with his neighbor Sam. Clifford is asleep throughout the story.
Dean In "So Much Water So Close to Home" Dean is the school-aged son of Claire and Stuart.
Del In "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off" Del is the father of the narrator, Jack. Del blames himself for his friend Dummy's death, after which Del began to decline and eventually died.
Duane In "Gazebo" Duane, the first-person narrator, tells of how his marriage to Holly ended following his affair with a cleaning woman, Juanita, at the motel where he and Holly live and work.
Dummy In "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off" Dummy is a mute man who is never the same after he fills his pond with bass fish.
Ed In "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" Terri McGinnis and her husband, Mel, discuss Ed, Terri's abusive first husband. Terri maintains Ed really loved her.
Edith Packer In "After the Denim" Edith Packer is James Packer's younger wife. She is more lighthearted than her anxious husband.
Homeowner in "Viewfinder" In "Viewfinder" the homeowner responds to the sympathy offered by the photographer with chrome hooks for hands by asking the photographer to take many pictures of him and his house.
Homeowner in "Why Don't You Dance?" In "Why Don't You Dance?" the male homeowner, following the breakup of his relationship, puts all his belongings in the front yard, arranged as they were in his house.
Injured old man In "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" the injured old man is depressed because his full-body cast won't permit him to turn his head to look at his wife. Mel McGinnis speaks of this man's position as emblematic of real love.
Injured old woman In "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" the injured old woman and her husband survive a car wreck, but barely.
Jack Fraser In "The Third Thing That Killed My Father Off" Jack Fraser narrates a story from his youth he feels explains his father's death. The story revolves around his father's friendship with a mute man named Dummy.
James Packer In "After the Denim" protagonist James Packer attempts to ward off despair by a fixation on luck and routine. The presence of a young, denim-wearing couple at the community bingo game makes Packer's luck turn for the worse.
Jerry Roberts In "Tell the Women We're Going" Jerry Roberts drags his best friend Bill Jamison along on a Sunday afternoon outing that turns into a pursuit and capture of two teenage girls.
Juanita In "Gazebo" Juanita is the Mexican cleaning woman who begins an affair with Duane, the married manager of the motel where they both work.
Larry Wain In "Sacks" Larry is the truck-driving husband of the woman who commits adultery with Les's father. Larry comes home to find the two in bed, and he falls to the floor and weeps.
LD In "One More Thing" LD is Maxine's husband and Rae's father. An alcoholic with a belligerent streak, LD tries to pack his entire life into a suitcase when Maxine kicks him out.
Les In "Sacks" Les, the narrator, recounts a brief meeting with his estranged father, who tells him the story of the adultery that led to the breakup of his marriage.
Les's father In "Sacks" Les's father meets Les in an airport and tells him the story of his affair, which ruined his marriage.
Linda In "Tell the Women We're Going" Linda is Bill's wife.
Long-haired man In "After the Denim" a long-haired man with an earring shows up to the bingo hall with his girlfriend.
Man in barber chair The man in the barber chair narrates "The Calm" and listens while Charles tells his story about hunting. After the other men leave the barbershop, the man decides to leave his life behind when the barber touches his head tenderly.
Man reading newspaper In "The Calm" the man reading the newspaper is one of the customers waiting for a haircut.
Marnie In "So Much Water So Close to Home" Claire visits the beauty salon where Marnie works prior to attending a funeral.
Maxine In "One More Thing" Maxine comes home from work to find her husband LD and their daughter Rae arguing. Fed up with LD's abusive, drunken behavior, she kicks him out of the house.
Mr. Weiss In "The Bath" Mr. Weiss is the husband of Ann and the father of Scotty. He is as unsure and anxious as his wife, and he goes home from the hospital to try to wash off his fear with a bath.
Myrna In "Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit" Myrna is the narrator's wife. She gets sober and begins an affair with a man from Alcoholics Anonymous, Ross. Later, she returns to her marriage with the narrator.
Nancy Nancy is the anxious narrator of "I Could See the Smallest Things." The sound of the gate opening draws her out into the moonlit yard, where she encounters her estranged neighbor, Sam Lawton.
Narrator of "Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit" The narrator of "Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit" describes a time several years ago when his wife, Myrna, was openly in an affair with Ross, the man she met in Alcoholics Anonymous. At the time the narrator was struggling with his own drinking.
Nelson In "The Bath" Ann Weiss encounters Nelson's family sitting in the hospital waiting room. They are as anxious for news about their son Nelson's condition as Ann Weiss is for news about that of her own son Scotty.
Nelson's father In "The Bath" Nelson's father directs Ann Weiss to the hospital elevator.
Old couple In "Gazebo" Holly recounts how before she and Duane were married, they met a sweet old couple on a country drive. Holly idealizes the life the old couple seemed to live, mostly because her own adult life has failed to live up to this ideal of stability and dignity.
Rae In "One More Thing" Rae is the headstrong teenage daughter of LD and Maxine. She believes the brain controls every aspect of human experience, and the implication—that LD should be able to control his alcoholism—angers her father.
Ross In "Mr. Coffee and Mr. Fixit" Ross is the object of the narrator's ridicule, because he was having an affair with the narrator's wife.
Sally Wain In "Sacks" Sally Wain is Larry's wife. She sells Stanley products door-to-door, which brings her in contact with Les's father. The two begin an affair, even though she is half as old as her lover.
Sam Lawton In "I Could See the Smallest Things" Sam Lawton is outside killing slugs in his yard in the middle of the night. When his neighbor Nancy appears, Sam tells her he's gotten sober and would like to renew his friendship with Clifford, Nancy's husband.
Scotty In "The Bath" Scotty is hit by a car and enters a coma on his eighth birthday.
Sharon In "Tell the Women We're Going" Sharon is a tall, dark-haired young woman bicycling down the highway with her friend, Barbara. The two are pursued by Jerry and Bill to the top of Picture Rock, where they endure Jerry's violent attack with a rock.
Stuart In "So Much Water So Close to Home" Stuart is one of the men who encounters a female corpse on a fishing trip and chooses not to take any action until the trip is over. Stuart is adamant he has done nothing wrong, and his wife Claire's judgment and suspicion make him agitated.
The boy in "Everything Stuck to Him" In "Everything Stuck to Him" the boy decides to stay with the girl and their infant instead of going on his hunting trip. Tension between the boy and the girl is resolved when the boy knocks a plate of syrupy waffles onto his lap.
The boy in "Why Don't You Dance?" In "Why Don't You Dance?" a boy and girl stop at the homeowner's house, thinking it's a yard sale.
The girl in "Everything Stuck to Him" In "Everything Stuck to Him" the girl is worried about her infant daughter and issues the boy an ultimatum to choose between his hunting trip and his family. When he chooses his family, she makes him waffles, which the boy subsequently knocks into his lap.
The girl in "Why Don't You Dance?" In "Why Don't You Dance?" a boy and girl stop at the homeowner's house, thinking it's a yard sale. The girl ends up drinking and dancing with the homeowner, whom she feels is "desperate."
The man in "Popular Mechanics" In "Popular Mechanics" the man is leaving the woman and their baby when he decides he wants to take the baby with him. He enters into a physical struggle with the woman for control of the baby.
The woman in "Popular Mechanics" In "Popular Mechanics" the woman refuses to let the man, who is leaving her, take their baby with him. She engages in a physical struggle with the man for control of the baby.
Vera Vera is Burt's estranged wife in "A Serious Talk." She has let the relationship go and moved on, which Burt cannot accept.
Young girl In "After the Denim" a young girl wearing shiny jewelry shows up to the bingo hall with her boyfriend, a long-haired man. Her seeming happiness and good luck infuriate James Packer.
Young woman In "Everything Stuck to Him" the young woman visits her father and asks for a story about her childhood.
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