17 December 2012
A Different Kind of Love
Throughout time, men and women have struggled with the idea of love. What is it? How can I tell when I feel it? Is it the same for everyone? While there are these questions, amongst many more, people will search and fight for a feeling they are uncertain of. Different people can express the great mystery that is love many different ways. In both Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants" and Raymond Carter's "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," the authors explore what love is and how one can spot it. They each approach the topic with very different writing styles and because of this, they both exemplify different forms of love. While they are severely different, both stories reflect a different and true kind of love. In Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants," the voice is changing often. The narrator is prominent in the opening paragraph and serves mainly to describe the setting. Throughout the text, it is mostly dialogue between the man and woman and their words reflect very different voices from one another. There is conflict between them and that is obvious. Later when we learn that they are discussing a possible abortion, it is easier to feel the strain between them, knowing there is such a heavy topic on hand. They are both speaking very carefully. The woman’s voice is weaker and more willing to make her husband happy, perhaps as to avoid hurting feelings. She says to her husband, “But I don’t care about me. And I’ll do it and then everything will be fine” (Hemingway 554). Although her husband urges her that he does not want her to do what makes her unhappy, she insists on doing what will make their lives go back to normal. They both offer sacrifices, but in the end the man’s voice is stronger and he gets what he wants. The question on hand now is whether or not her ultimate sacrifice was an act of love or an act of desperation and fear to return to her normal and comfortable life. Many could argue that both demonstrate acts that are not loving but through their struggle and difficult decisions, I think they were each considerate and thoughtful of each other’s feelings carefully and lovingly. Though the voices of the characters offer the reader some insight into their relationship, there is more to be analyzed in Hemingway’s writing when discussing love. The style of his writing in this short story is very similar to a play. It starts with a very descriptive setting as the beginning of a scene in a play would. It then goes on to consist of mostly dialogue. This dialogue is also very much set up like a play because it doesn’t use, “he said,” “she said,” very much, rather than just letting the conversation read and flow exactly as it’s meant to be heard in real life. There are a few narrations, but only enough to guide the reader through their actions. The conversation in this piece is the most important feature of his story because in this, we as readers are learning how the characters communicate about a heavy topic within a relationship. It allowed us to immerse ourselves in their lives and conversation, and some of us may have even imagined ourselves in their shoes. When reading through their conversation, it allows each reader to take a step back and notice what is being said and what is not being said, and we can decide whether or not this is how a couple in love should be communicating. For example, when one reads on his or her own it is easy to skip over or overlook a few lines here and there. Reading conversations aloud like we did in class helps readers to clearly hear both sides of the story. Like when the woman examines why she would actually like to proceed with the abortion, talking about their previous friends who had done it and “Afterward they were all so happy” (Hemingway 554). And despite her agreement, her husband is still thoughtful and considerate, saying, “I wouldn’t have you o it if you didn’t want to” (Hemingway 554). Though he presents his views more, he is not the ultimate deciding factor, and he knows it. It is clear that they each care about each other and their relationship deeply.
The voice and style of this piece put together create a very unique tone. It alternates slightly as the conversation becomes deeper and the reader begins to realize the importance of the topic on hand. The man is kind, yet very clear with his opinions and preferences. He emphasizes that what he’s asking is “an awfully simple operation” (Hemingway 553), yet repeats many times that he does not want her to do anything that will make her unhappy. He seems to feel bad for his wife, or even feel guilty for the opinions that he holds. The woman is recluse and willing to do whatever she can to please her husband, even if that means doing something she would rather not. Though this opinion that she actually wants to keep the baby is somewhat popular, I don’t believe it to be true. Her tone is confusing in this way, because though she hesitates and does not feel comfortable talking about it for long, she is adamant about what is important to her. She wants to be happy like they were before and continue living the way they did. “We can have everything,” (Hemingway 554) she says. “We can have the whole world,” (Hemingway 554); “We can go everywhere,” (Hemingway 554). Her tone seems to be hopeful, more than regretful. I think her somewhat hopeful or careless tone along with her husband’s worried tone creates a very tense scene among their relationship. The tone set makes it hard to feel the love between them, but in a situation like this, love doesn’t jump out and radiate, and that doesn’t make it any less true. They approached a difficult subject and came to a solution together, and that’s what love is.
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” written by Carter, is extremely different than the work of Hemingway. Nick, a man of 38 and married to his wife Laura, is the narrator. His main purpose, however, is to notice what’s going on. He is a quiet character, but his observations add a lot to the story; such as the amount of alcohol they have been consuming, the subtle gestures with his new wife, the time gone by, etcetera. His colleague, Mel, on the otherhand, dominates nearly every conversation. He speaks about his previous wife along with his new one, Terri, and even Terri’s ex-husband. He does not hold back and offers many opinions and stories about love. He tells a tragic story about an old couple that got into a car accident and he says the old man was more hurt by the fact that he could not see his wife than the fact he was just in a life threatening accident. After delivering this love story, he ends with, “I mean, it was killing the old fart just because he couldn’t look at the fucking woman” (Carver 725). This shows that he does not understand a love like that and may have never experienced it. Mel is a man that has been married more than once and believes he may marry again. Though cynical and perhaps not believing in some forms of love, I think his own form of love that he shares with his wife now and shared with his previous wife is still true, powerful, and unique.
In Carter’s short story, the style is a lot more like a novel. He describes the setting frequently to keep track with the time. The focus shifts slightly, sometimes from Mel’s overpowering opinions and stories back to Nick’s relationship with Laura. Though they are staying on the topic of love, they cover a wide spectrum of opinions. What is love, what isn’t love, when love ends if it ever does? The reason the focus shifts from topic to topic is because there are so many different opinions and stories interjecting, though Mel seems to keep control of the conversation throughout the entire story. For example, though Mel and Terri dominate the conversation discussing what love his, Nick is able to demonstrate what he and Laura believe to be love when she asks. “For an answer, I took Laura’s hand and raised it to my lips. I made a big production out of kissing her hand” (Carver 724). Nick and Laura are confident in their love, while Mel shows his confusion. “But sometimes I have a hard time accounting for the fact that I must have loved my first wife too. But I did. I know I did. So I suppose I am like Teri in that regard” (Carver 725). Here, we see Mel beginning to respect and understand his wife, and I think that love is just as pure as the obvious “honeymoon” stage of love. Love isn’t always an agreement; love includes the confusion, patience, and respect.
“What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” has a very cynical tone and sometimes very tense and uncomfortable. Mel’s opinions on love are heard throughout the story, and there are many because, as stated earlier, he seems to be confused himself. He speaks about love as though he is an expert, though it seems as if he doesn’t truly understand or appreciate it. With Mel as the main speaker and alcohol being a main feature, the tone is often changing. He is cynical, dismissal, confused, and judgmental, and creates a confusing tone for the reader. However, this tone is set back to normal with Nick and Laura’s voices of reason, offering a calmer love to balance the more confusing and complicated love story of Mel and Terri. There are many ways to convey a love story, and I think both writers did it well and created many aspects of love and relationships. These stories alone exemplify that no two relationships are the same, but that does not make one right and the other wrong. Each author has very different writing styles, opinions, stories, and overall outlooks on love, and that is exactly how love is. No two loves are the same, and reading these two stories helped us see that.
When editing this essay, my main goal was to make my thesis more clear and arguable. This meant adding a better and more clear thesis statement to each paragraph. I also gathered more examples, fixed grammatical errors, and rearranged sentences that sounded awkward.
Carver, Raymond. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love." What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 721-30. Print.
Hemingway, Earnest. "Hills Like White Elephants." Hills Like White Elephants. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 551-55. Print.