This study guide will help you analyze the text “Why Don't You Dance?” by Raymond Carver. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, theme and perspective.
This study guide is based on the version of the short story which appears in the collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (1981). A different, longer version exists in the collection Beginners (2009), published by Carver's wife years after his death.
Presentation of the text
Title: “Why Don't You Dance?”
Author: Raymond Carver
Published in: What We Talk about When We Talk about Love
Date of Publication: 1981
Genre: Short Story
American author Raymond Carver (1938-1988) is known today as one of the leaders of the literary movement called Dirty Realism. His style is minimalist, and the topics he explored were meant to show the raw, petty, and realistic side of human character. One of his most famous works is the short story collection What We Talk about When We Talk about Love.
A middle-aged man is having a yard sale of his possessions including all of his furniture. At one point a young couple stops by and they begin checking the furniture—the bed, the sofa, the TV. After a while, the middle-aged man appears. The three of them negotiate prices for some of the items while drinking and listening to music records. As they get drunk, the seller encourages the couple to dance in the yard. After a few dances, the young man quits, and the girl dances with the older man. A few weeks later the girl tells her acquaintances about that evening and the things they got from the man, hoping to talk away the experience.