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Carver’s “Why Don’t You Dance” is essentially a mystery.  It seems to be more about what is omitted from the story, rather than the actual events that take place.

In the kitchen, he poured another drink and looked at the bedroom suite in his front yard. The mattress was stripped and the candy-striped sheets lay beside two pillows on the chiffonier. Except for that, things looked much the way they had in the bedroom–nightstand and reading lamp on his side of the bed, nightstand and reading lamp on her side.

His side, her side.

He considered this as he sipped the whiskey.”

Carver suggest that this man’s wife has left him, and so he has placed all of their belongings in his front yard. Yes, a yard sell, but why everything, and why is everything set up exactly the way it was inside? Carter gives us little to no insight into this characters life, only the events occurring within the story.  One’s bedroom is an extremely intimate place, so for him to put it on his front yard displays his willingness to reveal himself.

Arms about each other, their bodies pressed together, the boy and the girl moved up and down the driveway. They were dancing. And when the record was over, they did it again, and when that one ended, the boy said, “I’m drunk.”

Carver illustrates extremely uncomfortable scenes with Jack, Jack’s girlfriend, and the owner of the home..  Their age is not clear, but it is strange when the owner of the house offers them alcohol and asks them to dance for him.

He felt her breath on his neck.

“I hope you like your bed,” he said.

The girl closed and then opened her eyes. She pushed her face into the man’s shoulder. She pulled the man closer.

“You must be desperate or something,” she said.”

This scene is oddly sexual and the girl seems to be the desperate one, considering she pulls him closer to her.

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.”

After the yard sale, Jack’s girlfriend mocks the old man by telling everyone how pathetic he was, but in reality she is trying to make sense of the events herself.  She knows there is something that makes it important, but can’t quite figure it out. Pushing aside the strange, sexual content of the story, I believe Carver is trying to uncover the connection between people and their items.  The events at the yard sale are extremely intimate, but Jack and his girlfriend dance for a stranger, a stranger whose personal items they are willing to take.  They share an intimate moment with a man they don’t know, in an intimate setting on display for the world to see.  The obscurity of the story is not effective, because I still have no true concept of it.

One Response to ““Why don’t You Dance,” Raymond Carver.”

  1. Wendy Sivik says:

    Ah, man! The obscurity of this story is exactly what makes it great! I feel like, for exceptional writers especially, there doesn’t have to be a ‘true concept’ to every story. That doesn’t mean the obscurity was ineffective. I think what the story is trying to highlight, in addition to the “connection between people and their items,” the fact that as humans we totally suffer from moments that seem inconsequential or humorously ridiculous to us but they are in fact significant and meaningful to other characters in the moment. I do completely agree with your feelings on the strange sexual tension in their dancing as it sort of adds an element of weirdness to the story that carries it a little over the edge of normal.