Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Writing Style

By Raymond Carver

Writing Style

Terse—As in Very Terse

It's a short story, so we weren't exactly expecting Proust-style sentences that go on for entire chapters (since, you know, the story doesn't have chapters), but this tale goes really far in the other direction. Carver doesn't exactly throw in a lot of extra words or description—quite the opposite, in fact. Take, for example, one of the very few glimpses we get into the older man's reaction to his young visitors:

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)

See how terse (a.k.a. infuriatingly undetailed) that snippet is? It gives us just enough information to know there might be something off-putting about the young couple (at least, according to the older man), but we don't get any more details about what might be "nasty" about them or whether the guy maintains or changes his opinion as the story unfolds.

Carver's super spare style gives us just enough details to drive us crazy with curiosity, but never really satisfies it. It's quite sadistic, really, but it also keeps us super engaged.

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