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Raymond Carver made many important choices in writing the short story, Why Don’t You Dance? From the introduction to the final scene, it would have been impossible to have written such a poignant plotless story without the implementation of many specific creative decisions. We begin reading under the impression  that this is just another story about a man who loved and lost. We assume we will know the circumstances of his loss, and how he came around to putting all of his belongings outside, however, we never really do.

Will Ferrell photographed in the 2010 film “Everything Must Go” based on “Why Don’t You Dance?”

A reason this story is so fantastic is because of the author’s decision to let the story speak for itself without giving it any blatant plot or purpose. From the dreamy “boy” and “girl” characters seemingly living a leisurely life full of love and yard sales, we are given another love story to complicate matters. Now not only do we have to understand the man with the furniture, but also two younger characters who have yet to experience the loss side of the love story. They are pitted against one another in an ambiguous fashion that lets the reader contrast the two situations. The characters are left nameless, so we are attached to their stories and emotions rather than the characters themselves. In seven pages, we experience multiple personal moments with the characters and when the story ends, they are not solved and we don’t even know their names.

This story succeeds at evoking emotions because it is so effectively a story about nothing, but a nothing that makes you feel. While reading; I cried, I laughed, I was confused, irritated, disgusted, etc. All from a story which, if asked to explain the plot I would not be able to do so? Yes, because this story mimics real life. As much as he who insists “everything happens for a reason” may contest, there are moments in life that are inexplicable, confusing, and generally entirely pointless. We meet people we forget about, who tell us things that we will never remember, but it is in these moments that we grow as people and characters. We try to make life interesting, just as the girl in the story did, by spicing up little life moments with intrigue and excitement. She tells everyone the story of the man who got them drunk and sold them all his furniture, hoping that group understanding of the story will bring meaning to it. “After a time, she quit trying” because there was no meaning. It is a memory, and that is all.

Raymond Carver made many decisions in the writing of this story, but the most effective one was to round out the story with an inconclusive conclusion. We do not understand why the events in the story happened, but neither do the characters. We understand that the characters have come to terms with this fact and we must do so as well. Therefore, we leave the story not feeling empty, but full of empathy for emotions and memories in life that sometimes simply mean nothing at all. As readers of this story we are charged with the task to discover the meaning for ourselves. I mean why DON’T we dance? Tomorrow it might mean nothing, but in the moment it means everything.


The boy laughed, but for no good reason.

For no good reason, he switched the reading lamp on.


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