Study Guide

Ballad of the Sad Cafe and Other Stories Love

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Love can make the world go round… but it can also start quite a fight. Regarded by some as a "bizarre love triangle," the story of Miss Amelia, Lymon Willis, and Marvin Macy is one where no one gets a traditional happy ending.

The kind of love McCullers writes about isn't the fairy tale brand. The kind of love displayed in The Ballad of the Sad Cafe and the other stories is the kind of love that destroys the pleasure of a whole town, or possesses one stranger to tell another that he loves him (as in "A Tree, A Rock, A Cloud"), or makes a dog run backwards down the street, (as in "Madame Zilensky.")

Questions About Love

  1. Why do you think Miss Amelia says yes to Marvin Macy's proposal? Is there any evidence that she loved him at any point?
  2. Do you think Miss Amelia, Cousin Lymon, and Marvin Macy could have ever lived together peacefully?
  3. What makes Mr. Brook fall in love with Madame Zilensky?
  4. How would you describe Lymon's love of Marvin Macy? Is it romantic? A "man crush"? Or simply loyalty? Something else?

Chew on This

Although love is regarded as a uniting force in most cultures, for McCullers's characters, love ultimately wrecks Miss Amelia's life… or at least isolates her from the outside world.

In McCullers's work, unrequited or irrational love seems to make the lover happiest, like when Mr. Brook experiences great peace after realizing he loves the liar Madame Zilensky, lies be damned.

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