Style and Technique
Much of what would be called exposition and characterization in a more conventional story is omitted from “Why Don’t You Dance?” The reader knows little about the man or about the young couple, and this deliberate vagueness forces the reader to speculate, to fill in the gaps in the narrative. What has become of the man’s marriage? Why has he emptied the contents of his house onto the lawn? Most important, what happens at the end of the story? By posing but refusing to answer such questions, the story leaves everything to the reader’s imagination, thus producing not one but an infinite number of possible narratives. Paradoxically, this story—which is superficially so brief and so simple—is highly complex, subject to almost limitless interpretation.
Unlike many of Carver’s short stories, “Why Don’t You Dance?” is less a realistic portrayal of middle-class life than a parable of human relationships and human suffering. In this most minimalist of narratives, a writer famed for his spareness of style succeeds in evoking a tragedy as universal as it is disturbing.