Why Don't You Dance?

by Raymond Carver

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

When the story begins, a man stands in his kitchen, drinking whiskey and looking out on his front yard, where he has placed all the furniture and appliances from inside his home. He has not only put everything out on the lawn but also set up all the pieces as they were when they were inside the house—even hooking up the electricity so that the television and blender, for example, still work. The narrator says,

things looked much the way they had in the bedroom—nightstand and ready lamp on his side of the bed, nightstand and reading lamp on her side.

His side, her side.

Though we never learn where the man's wife is now, the end of their relationship must have been sad and upsetting for him at the least—and perhaps even tragic. The fact that he is getting rid of all of their things make it seem like those objects are painful reminders of the relationship. He's even getting rid of their records, cups, and glasses.

Eventually, a young couple stops to check out what they assume is a yard sale at the man's house, but they don't seem to have a particularly solid relationship either.

"Kiss me," she said.

"Let's get up," he said.

"Kiss me," she said.

She closed her eyes. She held him.

He said, "I'll see if anybody's home."

But he just sat up and stayed where he was, making believe he was watching the television.

She wants to kiss and be affectionate, but he does not seem interested. Perhaps he feels awkward in someone else's front yard, or maybe he does not like public displays of affection. Maybe the two of them are just not that similar. The fact that he says that he's going to see if anyone is at home and then does not actually get up seems to indicate that he is not being completely honest with her.

In the end, the young woman tells the story of their new furniture to her friends, as though she cannot quite believe it.

She kept talking. She told everyone. There was more to it, and she was trying to get it talked out. After a time, she quit trying.

It is as though she recognizes some similarity between that older, ended relationship and her own younger one; however, she cannot quite put her finger on the significance of the fact that they purchased the remains of someone else's ended love.

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