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The Girls in Their Summer Dresses

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"The Girls in Their Summer Dresses"

"The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw follows a married couple's quarrel as they walk through lower Manhattan on a Sunday morning in November. Michael and Frances Loomis are walking toward Washington Square when Frances sees that Michael has turned to look at a pretty girl. Michael, who seems unaware that his wife has noticed his habitual girl watching, tries to make light of the incident. He explains that the girl's complexion drew his attention to her. Frances suggests that they call off their previously planned country outing with friends so that the two of them can spend the day in the city together. Michael agrees, and Frances begins making plans for them to attend a Giants' football game, go to a film, and have a nice dinner at a famous restaurant. As Frances is making her plans, Michael's eyes stray to another pretty girl, this time Frances is not able to conceal her frustration and dismay. She gives him a hard time, suggesting that since Michael is so interested in the girls, he might prefer to spend the day walking along the avenue. Michael tells Frances that there are only a few attractive girls in the city and that he only takes an occasional glance. Frances dismisses him, telling him that she considers his behavior habitual and deep-seated. Frances' insecurity grows, and she reveals a deepening anxiety and resentment. Michael tries comfort her, telling her that he is happily married, but in reality he takes pride in his wife, but enjoys watching other women. Once they reach Washington Square Park, they decide to walk among the people, but soon Frances' insecure mood returns and she begins to talk to Michael about his annoying habit. Michael tries again to reassure her, claiming that his habit is harmless and that he has always been faithful. After a brief time the couple decides they should stop for a brandy. As they drink, the conversation continues, and Michael finally confesses his love for girl-watching. After having a second drink, he becomes unreserved and loses all restraint. He talks of the countless beautiful girls in New York, classifying them as to places they are found, professional types, racial and national types, and girls who belong to different seasons, among them, "girls in their summer dresses." Frances believes that he wants the women, and Michael now no longer caring, acknowledges that he does. She then suggests that he would like to be free, and he hesitates and then admits that at times he would. Now weeping, Frances presses him further, believing that someday he will make a move, to which Michael replies that he probably will. Frances tries to regain her composure, asking that he not talk about the attractiveness of other women and Michael concedes. No longer intent on spending the day alone with her husband, Frances suggests that they telephone their friends, who will take them for a drive in the country. After Michael agrees, Frances excuses herself from the table, as she walks away he thinks, "What a pretty girl, what nice legs."

In Irwin Shaw's "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses," the point of view is third-person objective. The narrator simply reports what is noticeable to anyone observing the arguing couple. A device the narrator uses to share Michael and Frances' ideas is to have them speak as if they were speaking to themselves, "I try not to notice it," Frances said, as though she were talking to herself. The narrator never provides commentary on the character's actions so the reader is left to analyze them as each character speaks or acts, drawing their own conclusions.

In Irwin Shaw's short story, there are several uses of symbolism. First, as the story progresses, the reader learns that Frances is desperate to keep her husband close, even as she senses him drifting away-as he watches every attractive woman they pass. Frances announces that she wants to keep Michael to herself for the day, but this is suggestive of

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