May’s Love

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After our discussion last Thursday, I’ve found myself wondering why May loved Marcher all her life. When the story comes to an end, and Marcher’s selfishness is in clear view, it seems that May’s only purpose, in life and in the story, was to support him. We learn very little about her, especially in comparison to the protagonist, and her illogical devotion appears to be a weak point in the story. The conclusion that May is a poorly-fleshed out character in the midst of a painstakingly artful character analysis seems incorrect. 

It’s useful to point out, though, that Marcher’s selfishness affects the narrow scope of the narrator; Marcher’s disregard for her becomes the story’s disregard. It’s plausible that the reason for May’s devotion simply went over Marcher’s head. 

It is also important to note that May obviously finds Marcher amusing. She enjoys their vague and almost playful discussion of his beast more than Marcher does. Moreover, they quickly enter into a marriage-like relationship. She has no objections. Marcher takes her on frequent dates to the opera and to dinner. They foster a relationship built not only around discussions of his fate, but their mutual appreciation for art. But a mutual love for music doesn’t account for a life of spinsterhood.

The reason for May’s commitment to Marcher must be related to his secret.

Although May is explicitly used by Marcher throughout the novella, it is not fair to condemn her to the place of a victim. This is because May is the one who knows Marcher’s secret. Assuming the beast is his living an empty life, his failure to reciprocate or realize his feelings for her is part and parcel of his curse. Given that May is privy to his secret, and the answer to his nagging question, it would follow that May is, in a sense, using herself. Marcher is fatally selfish but May willingly condemns herself to the position of the unloved. She is passive, just like Marcher; she waits for him to realize his beast as he waits for it to find him. 

I believe the reason for her loving him is simple – she has something in common with him. They share his secret, though May is the one who possesses the ‘answer.’ If a desire to have a companion when the beast springs is impetus enough for Marcher’s strange attachment to May, it follows that her attachment to him is justified by her desire for her knowledge of his fate to remain important. Her suffering of unrequited love, simmering for so long, will not be in vain. Marcher and May both live unfulfilled lives, and, until her death, both provide a companion necessary for the other’s secret knowledge. 





2 thoughts on “May’s Love”

  1. Your point about the connection May and Marcher find not only through their discussion of fate, but also of art was really interesting, because May did remain unrequitedly in love with Marcher for so long. The fact that fate and art, two very abstract concepts, bonded them so closely speaks to May’s tendency towards embracing the undefinable. She finds purpose in those questions she has no real answer to, and I think it makes sense that she would avoid getting closure to instead suffer an unrequited love for years. Not to say that holding onto an unrequited love is necessarily a choice– but I think she would almost rather interpret the meaning of her unanswered love than risk the finality of confession.

  2. I was wondering about this too, and I really like your interpretation. I wonder, though, if May also thought she was being selfless and trying to divert Marcher from his path to the beast. She tells him, very firmly, that the beast has already sprung and that he’ll never know what it was, and seems to imply that his ignorance is for the best. Despite her confidence, she is, of course, wrong — he figures it out in the end, and that’s really when the beast springs. I think I read her as a little protective of Marcher, like her conscience won’t allow her to let him ruin his own life, so she makes up a lie in the hopes of getting him to move on and actually live. That doesn’t really explain why she cared so much — maybe she’s just exceptionally kind.

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