Study Guide

May in Fool for Love

By Sam Shepard


May's the female lead in this play. She's in her early thirties, but boy, has she crammed a lot of experiences in there so far. Let's take them one by one, shall we?

Abandonment Issues

Girlfriend's got 'em. You see, her ex-boyfriend Eddie apparently left her alone in a trailer while he was off gallivanting around (maybe for work, maybe to canoodle with some "Countess").

So, you can understand that when Eddie shows up to her motel promising/threatening to drag her to Wyoming to live in the same old trailer, she's not necessarily jumping up and down with glee. However, her love for Eddie + her abandonment issues = she's totally ambivalent about whether she wants Eddie to stay or go. She knows he's bad for her (and we don't know yet just how bad), but she also wants him to stay.

Don't believe us? Well, check out a representative exchange between the two of them:

EDDIE (standing slowly): I'll go.
MAY: You better.
MAY: You just better.
EDDIE: I thought you wanted me to stay.
MAY: I got somebody coming to get me.

Okay, great—she's got a new guy and she's being clear about wanting Eddie to go. That seems pretty straightforward, right? He's bad for her, so she's going to cut him loose. But not so fast. Just a few lines (i.e., a hot second) later, when Eddie slams out in a huff because she is seeing someone new, she's devastated, shouting, "Eddie! Where are you going? Eddie!" (142). And then she starts to pack a suitcase to follow him. (He comes back before that becomes necessary, however.)

So yeah, she has serious abandonment issues. Even though she should let him go, she has this total horror of getting ditched after, well, repeatedly getting ditched. So, even if she doesn't want Eddie around, she doesn't want to be left.

She's, Er, A Bit Volatile

May can be pretty, um, intense about her emotions—like, to the point of violence. To punish Eddie for abandoning her, she gets all kissy kissy with him… and then uses the opportunity to knee him in the groin.

Also, in an even scarier example, she threatens to kill Eddie and the mistress she believes he has, saying,

"[…] I'm gonna' kill her and then I'm gonna' kill you. Systematically. With sharp knives. Two separate knives. One for her and one for you. […] I'm gonna' torture her first though. Not you. I'm just gonna' let you have it. Probably in the midst of a kiss. Right when you think everything's been healed up. Right in the moment when you're sure you've got me buffaloed. That's when you'll die." (41)

Pretty chilling stuff, if you ask us—and especially when you consider that she used to/kinda still loves this dude.

The New Leaf Is Pretty Heavy, But She's Trying To Turn It Over

Disturbing violent tendencies aside, it really does seem like May is overall trying to get her life on track—she left Eddie, she's "on the wagon" in terms of drinking (150), and she's got a job as a cook (and according to Eddie, she hasn't had one in a while). So, that all sounds like pretty good forward motion.

Also, she's definitely trying to hang tough against Eddie's efforts to suck her back in to their life together, hammering him repeatedly with the accusation that he's just going to bail on her again:

"You can't keep messing me around like this. It's been going on too long. I can't take it anymore. I get sick everytime you come around. Then I get sick when you leave. You're like a disease to me. Besides, you got no right being jealous of me after all the bulls*** I've been through with you." (182)

She totally doesn't believe Eddie when he says he won't leave: "It'll be the same thing over and over again. We'll be together for a little while and then you'll be gone" (206). He tries to promise her that it's different this time, but she's not buying it:

"It was supposed to have been true every time before. Every other time. Now it's true again. You've been jerking me off like this for fifteen years. Fifteen years I've been a yo-yo for you. I've never been split. I've never been two ways about you. I've either loved you or not loved you. And now I just plain don't love you. Understand? Do you understand that? I don't love you. I don't need you. I don't want you. Do you get that? Now if you can still stay, then you're either crazy or pathetic." (327)

Despite all of her bluster, May ends up just falling into their old pattern: Eddie runs out on her, and she packs a suitcase and follows. So much for breaking the cycle?