The Girls in Their Summer Dresses Analysis

Irwin Shaw

Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The narrative achieves compression within a tightly unified framework. The story works through subtle shifts of mood and tone in the dialogue; the narrative is presented primarily from a dramatic point of view that creates tension and suspense, for the reader can never be sure of each character’s actual mental state or interior thoughts. The author allows the story to develop through their conversation. The authorial voice intervenes to describe the characters’ reactions, tone of voice, and emotional states as these change during the conversations. The dialogue achieves a realistic colloquial tone and reflects the economy one finds in dramatic dialogue.

The characters themselves are too commonplace to be very interesting. Their interests and conversation are shallow, the remarks on mundane topics sprinkled with joking and exaggerations. They have forsaken their roots in the Midwest and appear to have no ties with the past. They live in Manhattan, in comfort if not affluence; yet their main interests appear to be partying, drinking Scotch, attending films and football games, and, with Michael, girl-watching. Although Frances reveals some emotional depth and intensity, she shares her husband’s essentially superficial pleasures. Nothing they say or do indicates that they possess even a casual acquaintance with their environment’s cultural wealth—its libraries, concerts, art galleries, or live theater.

Intimacy and distance between the...

(The entire section is 423 words.)