Why Don't You Dance?

by Raymond Carver

Start Free Trial


Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 520

Of the three characters in Raymond Carver’s short story, only one is named: Jack. He is otherwise referred to as “the boy,” and he seems to be part of a couple with “the girl.” In one conversation, she calls him Jack. The third character and apparent protagonist is referred to as “the man.” The third-person narrator offers almost no physical description of any of them; rather, he narrates their actions, and Carver gives glimpses of their personalities through the story’s dialogue.

The Man

The man lives in a house with a front yard. Although the narrator never explicitly states the reason, the man will soon move out of the house, as he has been packing his belongings into cartons. He has placed most of the furniture, along with a television and lamp, on the front lawn. When the story opens, the man is having a drink, and soon he leaves for the market, returning with more whiskey. He seems anxious to get rid of the possessions, some of which had belonged to “her.” He accepts low offers and, once the deal is completed, is friendly toward the boy and girl: he serves them whiskey, plays a record, suggests that they dance, and then dances with the girl.

The boy and the girl, who are in the process of “furnishing a little apartment,” are most likely young adults, as the man is comfortable offering them whiskey to drink. Driving by, they see what looks like a yard sale. The differences between their perspectives emerge as they try out the things. They had pulled up while the man was away shopping, and they both see humor in their experience. The girl starts to state a possibility that would be funny, and the boy laughs “for no good reason.”

The Girl

The girl displays a more romantic attitude than the boy. She lies down on the bed and has to convince Jack to lie down with her. While they are on the bed, twice she says to him, “Kiss me,” and she caresses his face and embraces him. She also seems more concerned with money, suggesting that Jack offer less than the asking price and then doing this herself while negotiating over the television. She also finds the situation a bit strange; before they meet the man, she assumes that the seller must be “desperate,” and later, while they are dancing, she actually says that to him. The girl’s version of the event ends the story. In trying to relate an amusing anecdote, calling him “the old guy,” she cannot capture the humor or pathos of the actual event.

The Boy (Jack)

The boy tests out the television and the reading lamp. He demonstrates more curiosity than the girl, getting up first and going toward the house to look for the owner. Initially, he does not want to dance, but he then agrees. The boy also drinks more whiskey than the girl, and twice says that he is drunk, even after the girl says he is not. The narrator offers no information on his reaction when the girl dances with the man.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access