Names and what they reveal about a character in Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

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Olivia Carr-Edenfield, Literature


Focusing strictly on Raymond Carver’s short-story cycle What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981), this presentation aims to reveal what the motif of names reveal about a character’s attempts or lack of attempts to connect and communicate. Carver often shows this through point-of-view or dialogue, revealing who characters are and how they perceive the world around them. The smaller glimpses of names, whether it be through dialogue or perspective, in this short-story cycle illuminate how characters either attempt to connect and communicate or do not try at all, often unable to give a reason or explanation as to why. Names through perspective and dialogue can suggest connection and attempts at communication, while a lack of naming can suggest a lack of an attempt at connection and communication. Knowing how Carver manipulates his stories using names, one finds how characters view themselves and the world around them and how these characters are unable to name what fell apart or is falling apart in their lives, if they even realize that something is falling apart at all. Through the motif of names, the character’s true identity and what they think not only of themselves but also of others is revealed. The motif of names runs all throughout the cycle and is especially prominent in “Why Don’t You Dance?,” “Gazebo,” “Mr. Fixit and Mr. Coffee,” The Bath,” “Tell the Women We’re Going,” Popular Mechanics” and “Everything Stuck to Him.”

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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