Study Guide

The Boy a.k.a. Jack in Why Don't You Dance?

By Raymond Carver

The Boy a.k.a. Jack

It's kind of a blink-and-you-miss-it reference, but the boy is the only character to get a name. Unfortunately, that's the extent of the extra detail we get about Jack, his back story, what makes him tick, and so on. As with the other characters, we have to do a lot of reading between the lines to get a sense of this guy.

Here's what we know: He is not as into exhibitionist displays as his girlfriend—like, he gets uncomfortable when she suggests making out on the bed and sits up and pretends to be about to do something else to avoid having to outright say no:

"Kiss me," she said.

She closed her eyes. She held him.

He said, "I'll see if anybody's home."

But he just sat up and stayed where he was, making believe he was watching the
television.
(27-30)

His inability to be direct about his comfort level with PDA suggests Jack's not super confident. Beyond this, we don't know a whole lot about him except that he starts to feel very drunk before the other two characters do. Whereas the other two don't really complain much of feeling drunk, Jack makes repeated references to feeling tipsy:

"It goes to your head," the boy said. "I'm getting it in the head." (74)

This feeling is apparently why he ends up bowing out of the dancing, which is why the girl switches partners to the older guy.

One other thing about this boy: The older man comments that he's not entirely sure how nice the boy and girl are: "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 don't really know where the older man ends up with this assessment—and he is always perfectly nice to his young visitors—but at least initially, he's not quite sure about these two. And that sows a seed of doubt for us, too.

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