Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Plot Analysis

By Raymond Carver

Plot Analysis


The Lights Are On—Outside—And No One Is Home

The story opens with a man drinking whiskey and staring out at a bunch of furniture that he's apparently left on his lawn. It seems that he has previously been living with a woman (his wife?), and now that their time together is over, he's selling all of their things. While drinking a lot. We're not exaggerating when we say that all the furniture is out there—you can even turn the lamps and television on and watch.

Rising Action

Ain't No Party Like a Whiskey Party

Now we've jumped to some later point, and a young couple is looking at the furniture all sprawled out on the lawn. The dude who owns the house and the furniture comes home from a grocery trip to find them testing out all his stuff. He doesn't mind, though—he just offers them a drink and starts negotiating with them. Did we mention he likes whiskey? Because he really likes whiskey.


Why Don't You Dance While A Stranger Watches?

As the whiskey and beer keeps flowing, things take a bit of a turn and start to get weird (yes, even weirder than the older man having all his stuff out on the lawn). The older man turns on some music and suggests that the couple dance with each other. While he watches. Nothing creepy about that, right?

Falling Action

Why Don't You Dance With A Stranger?

When the young man bows out of the dancing, the young girl starts swaying with the older man. She tells him that he must be desperate, but she's the one burrowing into his body while they dance. Hmm… In any case, as the party winds down, there's definitely something weird going on between the girl and the older man.



The story then jumps to the future, where the girl is trying to talk out exactly what happened during their encounter with the older man who was selling all his furniture. She plays it up like the guy was pathetic and desperate, but it seems like there was something else in the whole encounter that didn't sit right with her, and she is talking about it constantly to try to get at the truth of what was really going on there. As the narrator tells us, though, she ends up giving up.

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