Georgia Scenes

by Augustus Baldwin Longstreet

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What is the conclusion of Augustus Baldwin Longstreet's "The Dance?"

Quick answer:

Longstreet uses the story to show that he has not completely forgotten his youth, but that Polly (and by extension modern society) has moved on from it.

Expert Answers

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Longstreet claims that "The Dance" is a personal recollection of his own, although he has changed the names. The narrator, Abram Baldwin, remembers visiting a rural town on business and being invited to a communal dance. Amid the festivities, Abram meets the husband and daughter of an old flame named Polly, and he is excited to meet her again. He enjoys the dancing and finally meets Polly, but she doesn't remember him. Abram tries to jog her memory with dancing, but although he mentions the names of several mutual friends, Polly still claims to not remember his own name. At the conclusion:

The dance wound up with the old merry jig, and the company dispersed.

The next day I set out for my residence. I had been at home rather more than two months, when I received the following letter from Squire Gibson:

"DEAR SIR: I send you the money collected on the notes you left with me. Since you left here, Polly has been thinking about old times, and she says, to save her life, she can't recollect you."
(Longstreet, "The Dance,"

This is not an example of a twist ending, but of a simple sad memory. Had Polly pretended to recall Abram and then he discovers her lie through the letter, it would have been a classic twist. Longstreet infuses the story with nostalgia for an older time, and in his character's old age he sees his own youth and joyous times in the faces and dancing of the young. That Polly did not recognize him shows that while he still has a foot in the past, recalling a time he believes to have been better, Polly has moved on completely and is entirely immersed in the present. She is not trying to be cruel, but to her, the past was a time of frivolity and fun, put out of mind in favor of the important issues of adulthood.

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