Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

After a freak accident in 1986, Andre Dubus was confined to a wheelchair for the last thirteen years of his life. The collection of stories Dancing After Hours (1996), from which the story of the same name is taken, was his first work of fiction after the accident. During the intervening decade, he produced one book of essays, many on the subject of disability. Several of the stories in Dancing After Hours feature characters with disabilities similar to his.

Although many authors would have made the wheelchair-using Drew the object of most of the reader’s sympathy, Dubus shows that Drew has come to grips more fully with his problems than some of the others have. Emily is more attractive than she thinks she is, but her experiences with romance have left her sad and fearful of seeking love. Seeing how Drew, who has used a wheelchair for years, still seeks joy and adventure helps her to open her heart to the possibilities around her. She is able to appreciate Jeff’s kind heart when he speaks of his disabled friend and to look affectionately on the possible romance between Kay and Rita, rather than focus on how she might be inconvenienced if they become involved in a relationship.

Although Drew is the catalyst for the changes in the story’s protagonist, his situation is seen only through Emily’s eyes. Even with this limited view, however, the author gives his readers an authentic look at the quotidian routines of a quadriplegic. First, Emily worries about how she will be able to interact with a disabled person and is relieved to find that Drew is lively and engaging; then she ponders the personal care he requires from his attendant; eventually, she talks to Alvin about what is involved in caring for Drew; finally, she asks Drew about his marriage and sex life.