Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Money

By Raymond Carver


"Whatever they ask, offer ten dollars less. It's always a good idea," she said.

"And, besides, they must be desperate or something." (36-37)

When the young couple first comes across the yard sale, they immediately start strategizing for how to lowball the owner of all this stuff. Interestingly, they also refer to the older man as "desperate," though they haven't met him yet.

"Would you take forty?" the girl asked.

"I'll take forty," the man said. (46-47)

The older man doesn't seem to mind that the young couple is trying to haggle with him (in this case, over the bed), and immediately accepts their counter offers. Kind of indicates that he doesn't attach a whole lot of value to his stuff—monetary or otherwise—no?

"How about the TV?" the boy said.


"Would you take fifteen?" the girl said.

"Fifteen's okay. I could take fifteen," the man said. (49-52)

This guy is not super interested in haggling with the couple, accepting their counter offers easily. He doesn't seem to care all that much about what he gets for his stuff, so long as it gets sold.

The boy took out the checkbook and held it to his lips as if thinking.

"I want the desk," the girl said. "How much money is the desk?"

The man waved his hand at this preposterous question.

"Name a figure," he said. (64-67)

Now the older man is refusing to even name a price for his stuff, letting the couple set what they want to pay for the desk. He really doesn't seem to care at all, does he?

"I'm going to turn off this TV and put on a record," the man said. "This recordplayer is going, too. Cheap. Make me an offer." (69)

The older man's desperation to sell seems to grow as the story continues. He starts suggesting new objects for the couple to purchase and allows them to offer whatever they're willing to pay.

"I'm making it out to cash," the boy said.

"Sure," the man said. (78-79)

The older guy's relaxed attitude about the sale of his stuff—and the money he gets from it—is on display here as well. Is there any word in the English language that conveys whatever better than "Sure"? We don't think so. He doesn't even seem to care how the couple pays him.

"You must be desperate or something," she said. (96)

The young girl says a few times that the older man must be "desperate." In the first example at the beginning of the story, she seems to mean financially desperate—and her perception prompts her to think they can lowball the owner of the furniture. Here, though, she says that the older dude must be desperate when they're dancing (and he's getting a kick out of it), meaning, presumably, that he's desperate for love (or physical stuff).

It's kind of like the older man's financial desperation and another kind—the kind that makes him pursue a slow dance with a stranger—are mixed up together here in this moment.

"Look at this record-player. The old guy gave it to us. And all these crappy records. Will you look at this s***?" (97)

Apparently the older man ends up just giving away the record player and the records by the end of the evening, indicating just how "desperate" he was to get rid of his stuff (and whatever memories went with them).

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