Why does Michael tell Frances the truth in "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses"?

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The short story "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw tells of a couple, Michael and Frances, taking a walk on a Sunday morning in New York. It's a beautiful day, they have slept late, and they've had a nice breakfast, so they are in a...

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The short story "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses" by Irwin Shaw tells of a couple, Michael and Frances, taking a walk on a Sunday morning in New York. It's a beautiful day, they have slept late, and they've had a nice breakfast, so they are in a good mood. Almost immediately, however, Frances notices Michael gawking at a pretty woman passing by and comments on it.

At first, they discount this incident and decide to spend the day together. They plan to cancel their scheduled outing with friends. As they keep walking, though, Michael continues to look at other women, and this becomes the topic of an animated conversation. They decide to drop the subject, but it's too late because they are both upset.

Although it is still morning, they go to a bar for drinks. Frances continues to probe Michael on the subject, and finally Michael breaks down and tells her the truth: he does enjoy observing women, he would like to spend time with some of them, and he can't say for sure that he wouldn't act upon his desires at some time in the future.

When Michael becomes completely honest with Frances, they have already had several drinks, and this might have something to do with his letting down his guard. However, the overriding reason is that they have reached a crisis point in their marriage. It is obvious from the conversation that Frances's resentment has been building for a long time, and Michael is tired of pretending and covering up to try to please her. As a result, he lets loose and tells her the whole truth of how he feels, even to the point of hinting that he might have affairs in the future. On Frances's part, she ultimately agrees to look the other way from Michael's possible future transgressions, but she makes it clear that she doesn't want to talk about them. Their session of honesty even prompts him to have a flicker of lust for his wife.

In conclusion, we see that the circumstances of the relaxing day, the drinks, long-building resentment, and Frances's initial accusation all contribute to Michael deciding to be utterly truthful with his wife.

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