Study Guide

Why Don't You Dance? Love/Marriage/Sex

By Raymond Carver


The premise of "Why Don't You Dance?" is that a dude has somehow lost his long-term lady companion, and his response is to put all their shared furniture out on the lawn and up for sale. As a result, the story asks readers to start thinking about love and relationships right from its opening lines.

There's also the fact that a young couple—two kids just starting out together in life—show up to buy the older dude's furniture, which makes us (the readers, that is) think about relationships even more.

The story doesn't exactly offer a warm and fuzzy presentation of love and relationships. The older man is obviously in some kind of pain or turmoil after losing his wife, so that's a given for him. As for the younger couple, we're not quite sure what's going on with them, but given that the young girl ends up being attracted to the older man's "desperation," we're not super sure there's a bright romantic future in store for them, either.

Questions About Love/Marriage/Sex

  1. Why does Carver present us with a relationship recently ended and another just beginning? What is the purpose of doing that?
  2. Is there a message about relationships to be found here? If so, what is it? If not, what sort of message does that send in its own right?
  3. Do the young girl and boy have a good relationship? A bad one? How do you know?

Chew on This

Carver puts two different relationships at the center of his story to suggest that love often involves unhappiness and/or seamy behavior.

The relationships in this story (and the fact that we get little backstory on them/the people involved) highlight the idea that other people are puzzles that will never be solved—it's just plain hard to understand other people.

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