Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Summary

By Raymond Carver

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.

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