The story “Why Don't You Dance?” by Raymond Carver features three active characters: the middle-aged man, the young man named Jack and the young woman. These characters are flat (they do not seem to change as a result of the action) and stereotypical (suggested by the fact that except for Jack, the other two are not named). Their characterization is short; their traits are not explored in depth but only briefly suggested.

The middle-aged man

The outer characterization of the older man in the story reveals that he is a “middle-aged” (p. 2, l. 35) smoker, that he used to have a wife (p. 1, ll. 11-13) and that he is having a yard sale.

Inner characterization

The man’s inner characterization stems from his attitude and actions, but also from the other characters’ opinion of him.

Initially, he comes across as intriguing and reflective; as he drinks and looks at his furniture up for the yard sale, he also thinks about his wife and their relationship:

His side, her side.
He considered this as he sipped the whiskey. (p. 1, ll. 12-13)

This may suggest that his wife died or left him, but also that they were not very close even during their relationship (each with his side).

His lack of surprise at no one stopping for the sale, indicates he is aware that selling all of one’s possessions may seem strange to others: “Now and then a car slowed and people stared. But no one stopped. It occurred to him that he wouldn't, either.” (p. 1, ll. 29-30)

The fact that he is drinking throughout the story and shops for alcohol might suggest that he has a drinking probl...

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