A Small Good Talk: Communication in Raymond Carver’s Stories
Raymond Carver’s characters are the normal average blue collared workingman. They lead a normal life, just simply going through the motions of everyday life. There is nothing special about each of Carver’s characters they mindlessly go through life without any drive. Carver’s characters communication play a huge part in forming their existence. Communication in Carver’s characters are emphasized in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” “Boxes,” and “A Small Good Thing.” These stories show the results of the characters communication, and show how it directly impacts their lives.
In “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” Mel and Terri’s communication shows how they really feel about each other. When Mel begins talking Terri always interrupts to voice her opinion, or add more information, Mel becomes agitated. Mel gets angry and asks Terri to “just shut up for once” (479). As the story progresses the tension between Mel and Terri continues to escalate. With every interruption Terri makes to Mel’s stories, Mel’s frustration reaches a point where Terri’s solution to fixing his anger is for Mel to “take a pill” (483). This shows Mel and Terri’s relationship, there is no real true love. They do not share any form of a real relationship, no comfort, no kindness, no consoling of any kind. The struggle of communication between the couple results in a battle to find true love.
As “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” progresses, the story slowly becomes darker and darker. As the conversation becomes darker the story setting itself also becomes darker and dimmer. When the story first starts, the light is in the kitchen and creates a warm and happy environment. As the conversation continues and the bottles become empty the light begins “draining out of the room” (482). After the bottles are empty and the conversation has subsided, the couples continue to stay in the room, “even when the room went dark” (483). This handling of light in Carver’s writing helps show the mood and optimism for the story. As the conversation becomes darker the room becomes dimmer. Once the light is completely gone from the room the characters stay motionless sitting silently.
Even though “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” if full of talking there is no collaboration communication which leads to a lack of hope in the story. The couples may be having a discussion there isn’t much actual dialogue being said other than Mel talking. None of the other characters speak that much as Mel rambles on. There isn’t a real love in the air. Nick tries to make a display of affection when he creates a “production of kissing [Laura’s] hand,” even this isn’t enough to help their relationship as the atmosphere around them becomes darker . Arthur Saltzman says Carver’s work emphasizes “misunderstandings, silences, and infidelities,” all of these play a gigantic role in the characters hopelessness (491).