The Waltz Themes
Several themes can be discerned from "The Waltz." One of these concerns conformity to societal expectations. Conventions regarding feminine behavior dictate that a woman accommodate herself to the needs of a man. Therefore, the narrator finds it difficult to say 'no' when asked to dance, or to talk of her problems with the waltz. This leads to a second theme, one seen in many of Parker's stories: the lack of communication between the sexes. Rather than express her displeasure, the narrator endures the waltz in silent agony. To complain would risk stopping the dance, failing to be feminine, and being left alone, behaviors unbecoming to a lady in a social setting.
Closely related is the issue of women's over-dependence on men. Whether induced by societal pressure or by inherent flaw, the narrator seems to prefer the crudest of male companionship to her independence, perhaps for a reason. Given the fact that the narrator would remain the only uncoupled female at her table if she did not dance, independence takes on the look of isolation. Through the physical suffering of the narrator, however, Parker points out that there is a price to pay for her dependence.
Finally, "The Waltz" suggests that love—or what passes for love in the form of twentieth-century relationships—is full of disappointments. Couples often locate each other in "last resort" situations. Sex is hurried and unsatisfying. Abuse occurs. Yet the dance continues without people growing wiser. In its allegorical form, "The Waltz" offers a realistic portrayal of a couple as it de-romanticizes the conventional love story.