Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 519
Françoise O’Meara is a young French woman recently married to an Irish man. The couple lives in Dublin, where the husband, Kieran, works. Françoise explores Dublin and its environs in the first six months of their marriage; around Easter, she discovers a bathing place on the coast about ten miles south of Dublin near the suburb of Blackrock. Although her husband tells her no one in Ireland goes swimming so early in the spring, Françoise is an independent woman, at ease with herself, and tells him it does not matter what other people do.
In mid-May, others begin to come to the bathing place. Françoise is particularly amused at the excessively modest way the Irish men change into their bathing suits on the beach. She is also somewhat troubled by the way the men look at her when she changes, not with curiosity or admiration, but with something she does not really understand, something almost like anger. When she tells her husband about her concern, he says it is just modesty. When she says the Irish men are as lecherous as troopers but just will not admit it, he says, “You don’t understand.”
In mid-June, a group of clerical students start coming to the beach where Françoise swims. After a while, the young men begin talking with her, obviously fascinated with her openness and with the fact that she is French. When she tells them about worker-priests she has known in France, one of whom fell in love with a prostitute and had to struggle to save his vocation, they react in stony silence. A world of passion in which people do not go to Mass does not exist for them except as a textbook vision of evil.
When one of the older men on the beach tells her that many people are talking about her friendship with the clerical students and that she is setting a bad example, he is shocked to find out that she is married. When Françoise tells her husband what the man has said, he tells her that in certain circumstances she might be classified as “an occasion of sin.”
The next time she talks with the clerical students on the beach, they ask her what it is like to be married. When she tells them the freedom of marriage is the freedom of having committed oneself and then inquires why they ask such a question, they reply that is it well known that French women think about nothing but love. She goes home furious that they have gotten so fresh with her and dreams that one of the other men on the beach grabs her leg and pulls her under the water. She tells the clerical students what the older man has said to her, but they know all about it, informing her that someone has already complained to their dean. When she asks them if they are upset about it, they dismiss it with “Some people would see bad in anything.” However, she knows that she will not come to Seacove the next spring.
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