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The Girls in the Summer Dresses

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“The Girls In The Summer Dresses” by Irwin Shaw is a story of Frances and Michael’s Sunday where Frances attempts to enjoy it, but her husband’s habit of staring at other women is leading to problems in their relationship. They start with breakfast following a walk in Manhattan on the Fifth Avenue. Michael is irritating Frances by looking at every other woman that passes by in a very tempting way. He turns his neck completely towards the women he finds interesting. Later, they are at a bar drinking brandy and Michael starts talking about his perspective and why he looks at the other women. She starts crying and asks him if he wants to be free. At first he doesn’t say anything, but then later agrees that he would like to be free someday. As Frances leaves the table and starts walking away, he looks at her thinking how pretty she is. Shaw’s characterization of Michael is used to convey the central idea that ineffective and lack of communication between each other can lead to brittle relationships.

Michael displays a round character in the story. He is insensitive to emotions, and shallow in his relationship with Frances who is very involved, eager to please him yet she is insecure with her low self esteem. Michael gazes at every woman like a piece of art and when his wife asks why, he says, “ I casually inspect the universe”(312). Michael shows interest in art and nature and even wants to go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A range of women interests him from “girls in the office”(315) to the “ girls in their summer dresses”(315). This long list of types of girls shows that he doesn’t only spot the good looking girl, but he will look at any and everyone. Even though, he is very committed in his relationship to his wife, he does not care what his wife thinks of his actions.

He was like that when he was a kid, he is older now and he “still [loves] to walk along Fifth Avenue”(314). He explains himself by stating that looking at other women is his first nature and it will not go away. Michael is very serious about his wife, he has “not touched another woman, In all the five years” (313). He tries to convince his sincerity but his habits of looking at other woman contradicts everyones perception including Frances. Michael plays a static role in the story, his preceptive for other women remains unchanged even knowing how rotten his wife feels about it. Michael is very warming to her the entire time even after the argument, he grasps her and holds her hand. After a few drink at the bar, she walks toward the telephone across the room and Michael looks at her thinking how pretty she is and how nice her legs are just the way he looks at any other woman out there.

Frances does not understand his reasons behind his actions, and he does not effectively communicate with her about his habits. He didn’t choose to be that way, it’s apparently how he is, and his perspective for any woman is inflexible. Thus, all this lead to a brittle and fragile marriage.

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