To some people it is important to stay in contact with friends from their past. To others it is important to spend time with friends that you have now. In Raymond Carver’s “What we talk about when we talk about Love” a group of friends gather together for light conversation and partake in rounds of alcohol shots. In Nathan Englander’s “What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank” a married couple has friends from their childhood visit. While catching up they begin smoking weed. In both stories friends come together and partake in drug or alcohol consumption which helps them to have deeper conversations that they may not normally have had under other circumstances. In both stories you see where two sets of couples come together and in both the couples are polar opposites. The plots are similar and the stories contain similar characters, narrators, and settings.
The plots to both Carver and Englander’s stories are extremely similar. In “What we talk about when we talk about love” a group of friends gather together and drink gin and tonic. The couples begin having a discussion about love and what they think it is. This part reveals a lot about the characters and their qualities based on their ideas of love. The narrator and his wife seem to believe they know what love is “for them” (135) while their friends bicker and argue over what love actually is by definition. Eventually, as the group drinks more, they go deeper into the conversation about love until it takes a dark turn. In “What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank” Jewish childhood friends, along with their husbands, reunite after many years of being apart. While discussing their favorite past times and drinking alcohol they begin smoking marijuana. This leads to a conversation about the Holocaust and the different perspectives between the narrator and his wife, and their friends. As the group smokes the conversation becomes deeper until the narrator and his wife are offended by their guests because their friends do not believe that they are Jewish enough or raising their son in the correct Jewish way. Both of these stories have a similar plot and flow to them. The stories begin with friends gathering together and enjoying the company of one another, then the group consumes alcohol or marijuana, and they dive into deep conversation. At the end of each story the conversation makes a dramatic turn which is different than how the conversations began. In Carver’s story the conversation begins light and easy while they talk about love but as they drink more and the conversation progresses the conversation takes a dark turn when Mel reveals his inner most wishes for what he could do to his wife. Englander’s story however begins with the conversation having tremendous amounts of tension between the characters while discussing their personal views of what it means to be Jewish” As he continues in his story and the characters smoke more marijuana the conversation becomes extremely light and silly. These two stories carry a similar them that it is easier to talk to people about otherwise uncomfortable or “touchy topics” while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Along with the plots of the stories they both share similar narrators, characters, and settings.
Carver writes from the point of view of a man, Nick, spending an evening with his wife, Laura, his friend, Mel, and Mel’s second wife, Terri. The group all had their own ideas and voiced them when it seemed appropriate. The narrator is a quiet man compared to Mel and Terri. Nick mainly only speaks when spoken to and is not quick for opposition. He and his wife sit quietly while the other two bicker. Englander writes from the point of view of a man spending time with his wife, Debbie, her best friend from her childhood, Shoshana (Lauren), and her husband, Yerucham (Mark). The main thing that this group of friends has in common is that they are all Jewish although Shoshana and her husband, Yerucham, practice it more traditionally. The narrator in Englander’s story is not as quite as in Carver’s story and has no problem voicing his ideas and opposing Mark when they view matters differently. Both stories have two sets of couples that are polar opposites. In Carver’s story Mel and Terri do not agree on what love is and therefore begin to bicker and argue. Nick and Laura, however, have the same idea of what love is and they seem to have a solid and cute relationship which Terri describes “still being on their honeymoon” (135). In Englander’s story the narrator and his wife are Jewish while their friends are Hassidic. Their friends came from Jerusalem and they live a completely different lifestyle than the narrator does. The setting for each story was also very similar. In “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love” the group sit around the table at Mel’s house and this is where they stay for the entire story. In “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank” the group is in various places, but they are in the narrator’s home instead of in a friend’s home. Carver’s story takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Englander’s story takes place in South Florida. Although the state in which these stories take place are polar opposites the general setting for which the stories take place are extremely similar. The similarities between the two could suggest that these two stories have a connection.
When Nathan Englander wrote “What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank” in 2011 I believe that he used the same plot, type of characters, and setting for his story because of Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk about When We Talk about Love” that was published in 1981. Carver’s theme of being able to speak more openly while under the influence of mind-altering substances gives a great background for a story to seem light-hearted but really have a deeper meaning. These two stories share the same plots, themes, types of characters, and settings. Although they have different types of characters and they are not in the same immediate setting the two stories still share enough similarities that it can be concluded that Englander may have written his story after Carver’s.