Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Alcohol Abuse

By Raymond Carver

Alcohol Abuse

We learn right off the bat that the older man at the center of "Why Don't You Dance?" likes his whiskey. From there, it's hard to find a moment in the story where he doesn't have a drink (or two) in his hands. On top of that, his hospitality to his young guests/potential buyers consists primarily of getting them totally wasted. So yeah, alcohol is pretty central to the story and its events and not in the healthiest way.

It's clear that the older man has just lost his wife, and his hard drinking seems like it might be related to his pain over this loss. The frequent references to alcohol and drinking definitely add to the feeling that the characters are beating off unhappiness with a stick—or a stiff drink, as the case may be.

Questions About Alcohol Abuse

  1. We know that the older man is probably using alcohol to drown his sorrows, but do we see any of that behavior in the younger couple? Do we have any evidence that they're using alcohol to avoid/drown out their own problems?
  2. Are we just overthinking this, actually? Are they just partying hard and cutting loose? If the alcohol use is unhealthy, how do we know?
  3. What are the most worrisome examples of alcohol use in the story, and why do you find them worrying?

Chew on This

These guys are just partying. Alcohol represents a fun release for the characters from their day-to-day problems.

The constant alcohol use throughout the story is definitely a signal that these characters—and the older man in particular—are in a seriously bad place.

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