Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Guilt/Shame (or lack thereof)

By Raymond Carver

Guilt/Shame (or lack thereof)

"Why Don't You Dance" kind of gives us the creepy crawlies—there's just something off about the characters, what they're doing, and what they're willing to let other people see them doing. In particular, the older man and the young girl seem perfectly willing to engage in unorthodox behavior, but there's also the sense that they feel self-conscious (or know that they should be feeling self-conscious) about their quirky ways. In other words, the characters suffer just a tiny bit from guilt/shame/self-consciousness regarding their choices—but those feelings don't stop them from acting anyway.

Questions About Guilt/Shame (or lack thereof)

  1. Why is the young girl so interested in having sex/fooling around where the whole neighborhood can see her?
  2. Why is the older guy so interested in watching the young couple dance?
  3. Why are there so many references to the fact that the couple and the older man are basically on display for the entire neighborhood? What does that whole suggestion of surveillance do for the story?

Chew on This

The story highlights this whole idea of being watched to draw attention to how self-conscious the older man must be feeling in his little neighborhood with his relationship having ended.

The story plays with feelings of guilt vs. feelings of, well, non-guilt to foreground that the older guy is a creeper. The fact that he is so willing to put his life and "desperation" on display indicates that he's an unsavory character.

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