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Exploration of Jealousy and Insecurity in The Girls in Their Summer Dresses

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In the short story, “The Girls in Their Summer Dresses” by American author Irwin Shaw, a married couple, Michael and Frances Loomis take a leisurely walk through Fifth Avenue on a warm Sunday morning in November. This stroll is interrupted by Frances when she begins to realize and point out that her spouse has been staring at every single woman that passed by. Foolishly, Michael does not deny this and tells his wife what was so intriguing about these other women that made him look. These actions that would be considered ludicrous or absurd in modern times, make Frances question the integrity of their marriage. It also causes Frances to question herself and her appearance. The problem that arises in their marriage and in a lot of modern relationships is jealousy, which in this case is stemmed and deeply routed by Frances’ insecurity and is ultimately caused by Michael’s untampered curiosity.

Insecurity is defined as uncertainty or anxiety about oneself or essentially the lack of confidence in yourself. In the short story, Frances starts to feel like she is not enough for her husband because he likes to ogle at every single woman. She believes Michael has a desire to look at the vast categories of women that the boiling pot of New York offers. A boiling pot refers to the concept of a place having different ethnicities, and social classes all living in one community similarly to the vegetables and meat in a boiling pot. She believes that Michael likes to stare at these women because secretly he wants them. When she confronts him on their stroll and later in the bar, instead of denying this notion, Michael agrees with her. Simply put, this adds to Frances’ insecurities and it makes her cry into her handkerchief. This prompts her to suggest that Michael, in the near future is going to leave her for another woman and Michael basically tells her that the probability of this happening is very likely. She then stops crying and tells her husband to keep his opinions about other women to himself because she doesn’t want to hear about the matter anymore.

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In Michael’s defense, he does not stare at other women because he finds Frances undesirable, he actually finds her very beautiful, it’s just that his curiosity gets the better of him. Curiosity is defined as the strong desire or urge to know something. In this instance, he would like to know what it would be like to be in relationship with one of the extraordinary women that New York is offering him on a silver platter. Michael, who is a near middle-age man from Ohio, probably didn’t have the same diversity or variety of options that New York has to offer in his home state. All these women with their exotic complexions, flat stomachs, large chests and large backsides pique his interest which leads him to look and gander and fantasize what it would be like to be free from shackles of marriage. Though this may be true, he still very much loves his wife and would like to continue living a happily married life. At the end he even stares at his wife’s body when she gets up to use the telephone. Michael’s conduct reflects a lot of contradictions by saying that he is probably going to leave her but then saying that he loves her and will like to keep living with Frances.

All in all, the short story can be interpreted as an interrogation where the suspect in this case, Michael, gives nothing but the truth. The truth that eventually hurts his wife and which most likely affects the stability of their marriage. This story presents a problem that is present in modern relationships, jealousy. Jealousy that is caused by one party’s interactions with another person that isn’t their partner. This interaction causes the other party to question themselves and their contributions to the relationship as a whole. This problem usually leads to the termination of most relationships, but in this story, Michael and Frances move on with their plans.

In my opinion, Michael was disrespectful and unfair to Frances because he did not think on how she was going to feel and the consequences of his behavior. His lack of awareness of the other, in this case Frances, speaks volumes about the type of person Michael is and his areas of opportunities.


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