Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance?

Why Don't You Dance? Summary

The whole premise of the story is simple: A dude has apparently emptied the contents of his house onto his front lawn—furniture, dishes, clothes, appliances… everything. Sound strange? Well it gets even weirder: He's arranged the furniture as though it's still in the house. Like, the lamps and record player work.

We don't know too much about the "Why" of this whole scene, but we know that the owner of the house had a female partner (probably a wife) who is no longer in the picture. Hence the giant lawn sale of their things, we suppose.

A young couple (whom we know only as "the boy" and "the girl" at first) come by and start scoping out the furniture to buy it. They also consider engaging in a little hanky panky on the bedroom set. While they're doing this, the owner of the house comes back toting whiskey and beer. He invites his guests to drink while they attempt to lowball him on offers for the furniture.

Then the homeowner turns on the record player and encourages the young couple to dance. They resist at first, but eventually give in and do it. Then, apparently when the boy is too drunk to continue, the older man and the younger girl end up dancing. Yeah, it feels more than a little creepy and weird.

The story ends with the girl telling her friends about the evening, playing up how weird and pathetic the older guy was. But she was kind of into it, so we're not sure what's going on there. And neither is she—the narrator tells us that she's been talking nonstop about her run-in with the older guy for weeks since she thought there was "more to it" (98), though she never figures out what it is.

  • Section 1

    • A guy is looking out a window at his entire bedroom set, which has been put out on the lawn. Apparently he (and some other female occupant, it seems) have basically moved out of the house.
  • Section 2

    • Now we've shifted perspective so we are outside the house and a couple is coming to look at the furniture.
    • They start checking everything out, even though the person selling the items isn't anywhere in sight. They touch lots of stuff and turn on the television.
    • Then the girl tries to get frisky with her boyfriend on the bed, but the boyfriend gets skeezed out by that and decides he's going to look for the owner of the furniture so they can actually make some purchases.
  • Section 3

    • "The man" starts ambling down the sidewalk toward the house. It looks like he's the owner of the joint. Or that's how he acts, anyway. It seems he's been to the liquor store.
    • He's apparently delighted to find this couple checking out his furniture, and the couple starts bargaining with him.
    • Meanwhile, the man invites the young people to join him for a drink as he sits down on the sofa.
  • Section 4

    • The unlikely trio sits there drinking. The man polishes off his drink, starts another, and then accidentally drops his cigarette between the sofa cushions when he goes to turn on the light (yes, there are lights on outside). The girl helps him look for it.
    • They continue bargaining, and the girl says she wants the desk as well.
  • Section 5

    • The man decides to turn off the TV and put on the record player, telling them that's for sale, too. In fact, everything is for sale. He pours more drinks.
    • The boy and the girl are apparently well on their way to being hammered. Despite being incapacitated, the boy is writing the man a check; he has the girl pick out some records to purchase.
    • The man suggests that the young couple dance. The boy is reluctant at first, but they go along with the idea eventually. The boy comments repeatedly on how drunk he is.
    • The girl asks the boy to dance with her (it seems he's too drunk to oblige), and then asks the man, too. When the man stands up, she goes to him with open arms, and they start to dance.
  • Section 6

    • The girl comments to the man that some other people are watching them, but the man tells her not to worry about it. They get very cozy, with these two dancing close and the girl breathing on his neck. She comments that he must be pretty desperate. Which is an odd thing to say.
  • Section 7

    • Now we've flashed forward to the future, and the girl is telling someone else about their weird evening with the man and his furniture all spread out on the lawn. It seems that evening has stuck with her, and she talks about it a lot—ostensibly to figure out what the heck happened.