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.