Story Analysis of ‘The Girls In Their Summer Dresses’ by Irwin Shaw


It’s Day 4 of the #A2ZChallenge. This year, I invite you to read and discuss short stories with me. Each day, I will bring you a ‘Read of the Day,’ a short story in English, so that we can indulge in the joy of reading. You can visit my site daily for a short story with analysis and participate in the discussion in the comments.

Read of the Day 

Today, we will read The Girls In their Summer Dresses by Irwin Shaw.

You can read the short story online here.

About the Author 

Irwin Shaw is a famous American playwright, screenwriter, and author with several critically acclaimed short stories and best-selling novels to his credit. The New Yorker and Esquire regularly published Shaw’s stories in the late 1930s. His most popular novels include The Young Lions (1948), about three soldiers set during World War II, made into a motion picture starring Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift. And Rich Man, Poor Man (1970), which was about two brothers and a sister set in the post-World War II, was made into the first TV miniseries starring Peter Strauss, Nick Nolte, and Susan Blakely. Shaw’s short stories and novels were made into many movies, including Take One False Step (1949), Tip on a Dead Jockey (1958), and Three (1969). Some of his other famous novels include Two Weeks in Another Town (1960), Evening in Byzantium (1973), and Beggarman, Thief (1977).

Story Analysis 

The Girls In Their Summer Dresses will stay in my mind forever for Irwin Shaw’s writing prowess. It’s amazing how he has this knack of pulling you, the reader, into his world from the first letter of his story. It’s a charming and engrossing story that had me glued onto the screen till I finished it.

The story starts on a cozy, romantic note, with Frances excited about spending all day with Michael, her husband, in New York City. She goes all out to please him, planning a date to his tastes and interests, except that the man is busy bird watching with scant respect for his wife. We see a covert narcissist husband in Michael, who justifies his actions as natural and harmless. Michael opens up after Frances implores him, and his confession reveals his insensitivity and immaturity. Michael is apathetic to Frances, despite feigning love and concern for her. The ending is a surprise in an unexpected way.

The Girls In Their Summer Dresses makes a fine entertaining read. Shaw has this uncanny ability to suck you into the story, where you feel like you’re right in the middle of all action. You are actually walking along with Frances and Michael through the streets of Fifth Avenue, New York, on a Sunday winter morning. The story relies heavily on dialogues where you feel the tension – Michael’s pent-up release and Frances’ fall of her inner world. Irwin Shaw shows how to do the “show and tell” technique right in this story. You have to read the story to see how he characterizes his protagonists through the dialogue and “show and tell” methods. Like how Shaw shows that Michael objectifies all women, including his wife, through these techniques! 

The story brings to mind couples who are starkly opposite, but not in a good way. In this relationship, Frances has depth and personality, yet she ends up with a guy like Michael. Michael’s pretty shallow, dubious, and chauvinistic but has a great woman who adores him in his wife. Yet, he is not satisfied. Men like Michael can never be happy with any woman. It’s not a woman’s character that matters to men like Michael as much as their body and appearance. A personality is a bonus.

I’d highly recommend The Girls In Their Summer Dresses by Irwin Shaw. Please do let me know your thoughts on the story and this post.

*I’m participating in the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge.

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Tina Sequeira
Tina Sequeira is a marketer and moonlighting writer. She is passionate about tech, creativity, and social justice—dabbling in and writing about the same.