Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Narrator Point of View

By Raymond Carver

Narrator Point of View

Third Person (Limited Omniscient)

The narrator in this story is pretty removed from the action, offering very little commentary on the characters and dialogue that s/he presents us. In fact, the vast majority of the story consists of dialogue rather than description; beyond some introductory details about how the protagonist dude has put all his stuff out on the lawn, the narrator largely bows out and lets the characters speak for themselves.

That said, there are some moments where the narrator gives us insight into the minds of characters that we wouldn't necessarily have otherwise. For example, we get a very brief glimpse into the protagonist's opinions of his young visitors partway through the story:

He looked at them as they sat at the table. In the lamplight, there was something about their faces. It was nice or it was nasty. There was no telling. (68)

We're kept mostly in the dark about what the man (or anyone else, for that matter) is feeling, but here we get just the faintest suggestion that perhaps he isn't super impressed with his guests.

The narrator also takes us into the mind of a character toward the end of the story when we learn that the young girl is still troubled by her encounter with the older man:

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. (98)

We don't learn why the young girl is so troubled, but the narrator gives us just enough of a glimpse into her mind to know that something is definitely up.

The bottom line is that the narrator can dip into the minds of characters but stays mostly removed, giving us very little detail about what's happening with the characters beyond their dialogue. In any case, the narration demands a lot of reading between the lines. But hey, that's the fun of reading, right?

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