Importance of Symbolism in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love"

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Symbols are an essential part of daily life, since they help to express ideas without the need of a detailed explanation; traffic signs informing drivers without short paragraphs being posted in their place, facial gestures expressing feelings without having to describe them verbally, just to name a common couple. Likewise, symbols are a crucial part of a literary work, helping the author subtly incorporate concepts throughout the work. An author will deliberately incorporate a symbol into his or her literary work, which alone would mean nothing, but in context carries out a point the author is trying to make. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" is a short story about four friends trying to find the true meaning of love, trying…show more content…
Just like an alcoholic has a hard time admitting alcoholism, it is hard for a person in love to accept and fight against a spouse abusing him or her. For example, in "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," Terri shares her experience in her previous marriage, "He beat me up one night. He dragged me around the living room by my ankles. He kept saying, ‘I love you, I love you…,'" (Carver 763) where she explains how her husband would beat her and abuse her physically, but she still considered it being love. Carver also emphasizes the contradictions within the characters themselves in the story, which illustrates the uncertainty of love, and how there is not a clearly defined approach to understanding it. Returning to the topic of Terri's previous marriage, Mel, her current husband, complains about his failure to understand how she could refer to that abusive relationship as love. However, later on when she corrects him while he is talking, he turns to her and asks her to "shut up" (Carver 767). Another important contradiction which takes place throughout the entire story, is how the four friends are discussing a subject which they all have had bad experiences with, since they have all been divorced and remarried. The contradictions throughout Carver's story symbolize how love can also contradict itself, and trying to understand love is impossible since so many particular cases can negate specific examples of love. Moreover,
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