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[Detail] Cover of "How to Dance," 1878

Having a Ball | Create a Dance | Drama as Social Criticism | T. A. Faulkner's Cautionary Tales | Instruction

T. A. Faulkner's Cautionary Tales

T.A. Faulkner's anti-dance guides, "From the Ball-Room to Hell" (1892) and "The Lure of the Dance" (1916), feature the ruined lives and assorted evils associated with dancing. "The Lure of the Dance" is actually dedicated to Faulkner's own sister, who "died a victim of one of these human vultures infesting the dancing schools and ball rooms of our land," (page 6).

Faulkner peppers his rhetoric with questions such as, "Would you like your parents, your friends, and people for whom you have the highest respect and whose favor you wish to secure and retain, know what your thoughts and feelings were while engaged in the dance?" (page 25).

He also vividly describes scenes in which children succumb to the temptations that surround them. In one example, a young woman goes to dinner with a young man she just met at a dance:

She hears her companion order a bottle of wine opened . . . One glass and then another, and the brain . . . is whirling and giddy. The vile wretch . . . whispers in her ear many soft and foolish lies . . .

The wine has done its work.

When she awakens next morning, it is in a strange room . . . [H]e who has brought all this upon her has promised to right the wrong by marriage . . . but such trifles as this he thinks nothing of; it is too common an occurrence about the ball-room. Days grow into months, and now added sorrow fills her cup . . . She is to become a mother, and the girl cries out in bitter anguish, "My God; what shall I do; must I commit murder! Oh! that I had never entered a ball-room."

page 71

  • What does Faulkner's starting his book with a dedication to his sister contribute to the overall effect of the tale?
  • Does Faulkner narrate the story from the perspective of the man or woman? What does this viewpoint contribute to the overall effect of the piece?
  • Who is Faulkner's intended audience?
  • How does Faulkner's work compare to that of religious leaders who were part of the anti-dance movement?
  • How does this work compare to Wilson's play in its ability to affect social change?