Study Guide

Fool for Love Power/Control

By Sam Shepard


"Little practice. Gotta stay in practice these days. There's kids out there ropin' calves in six seconds dead. Can you believe that? Six and no change. Flyin' off the saddle on the right hand side like a bunch a' Spider Monkeys. I'm tellin' ya', they got it down to a science." (218)

It doesn't seem like an accident that Eddie—who's a big control freak—is into roping things. Just as he tries to keep a tight grip on reality, so he also likes to tie things up with his lassos. There seems to be a metaphor there…

"I'm not leavin'. I don't care what you think anymore. I don't care what you feel. None a' that matters. I'm not leavin'. I'm stayin' right here. I don't care if a hundred "dates" walk through that door—I'll take every one of 'em on. I don't care if you hate my guts. I don't care if you can't stand the sight of me or the sound of me or the smell of me. I'm never leavin'. You'll never get rid of me. You'll never escape me either. I'll track you down no matter where you go. I know exactly how your mind works. I've been right every time. Every single time." (322)

May and Eddie have competing versions of reality, and they're also vying for control over this whole situation. At the moment, since May wants him to leave, he's refusing to do so. You might think that's sweet, since it seems to mean that he won't abandon her again, but knowing Eddie, it's more about his desire just to have control over everything. That means being "right every time," too—having control over reality is also very big for him.

MARTIN: (as he goes with EDDIE) Uh—do you think she's okay in there?

EDDIE: Sure she's okay. She's always okay. She just likes to take her time. Just to torture you. (454-455)

Eddie seems to think that May plays her own power games—for example, in this case, he thinks she's hiding out in the bathroom to "torture" the men while waiting for her. We're not sure if he's right or if that's just sheer projection on his part.

"Sit down!" (528).

This is Eddie refusing to let anyone leave in the middle of his story about his father's bigamy/his incestuous relationship with his sister. Did we mention he's kind of a control freak? Well, he is, and he's going to subject this poor stranger Martin to his weird tell, come hell or high water.

"Nobody's going to the movies. There's not a movie in this town that can match the story I'm gonna' tell. I'm gonna' finish this story." (532).

Eddie's control freak tendencies come out most clearly in his attempts to get May on board with his version of reality—or, put differently, with his story about their relationship and the world in general. So, it's no surprise that he is really insistent that he get to finish his tale about the way things are.

"Boy, is she ever off the wall with this one. You gotta' do somethin' about this." (552)

Eddie gets his control freaky nature honestly. His father, too, showed that he's a bit of a control junkie himself when he asserted the right to make up his own reality—one in which he's married to Barbara Mandrell. The Old Man thinks that others should be willing to accept his alternate version of reality, so he gets pretty angry when May starts talking about things that contradict that fantasyland. At first, he just implies that she's wrong.

"She's getting' way outa' line, here." (554)

Now, May's not only wrong in the Old Man's view, but she's also breaking some kind of unknown rules—his rules—in talking about the dirty details about what happened to his families after he skipped town. He most certainly doesn't want to hear it, since it breaks up that perfect little fantasy life he had built for himself.

"Now, wait a second! Wait a second. Just a goddamn second here. This story doesn't hold water. (To EDDIE, who stays seated) You're not gonna' let her off the hook with that one are ya'? That's the dumbest version I ever heard in my whole life. She never blew her brains out. Nobody ever told me that. Where the hell did that come from? (to EDDIE, who remains seated) Stand up! Get on yer feet now goddammit! I wanna' hear the male side a' this thing. You gotta' represent me now. Speak on my behalf. There's no one to speak for me now! Stand up!" (556)

The Old Man gets progressively more upset about May's version of events. Apparently, he had hoped that he would just be able to live in ignorant bliss, focusing on his little fantasies, and never have to hear about what actually happened. But now that it's out, he thinks he can kind of get things back on track (in a sense) by getting Eddie—his fellow fantasist/control freak—to back up an alternative version.

"Now tell her. Tell her the way it happened. We've got a pact. Don't forget that." (557)

In the Old Man's view, he and Eddie had a pact as men/fantasy-oriented people—he mentioned that earlier when he got Eddie to validate his kooky belief that he is married to Barbara Mandrell. Apparently, to him, that was Eddie buying into his right to just define his own reality as he pleases.

THE OLD MAN: What're you doing'? Speak to her. Bring her around to our side. You gotta' make her see this thing in a clear light.

(Very slowly EDDIE and MAY move toward each other.)

THE OLD MAN: (to EDDIE) Stay away from her! What the hell are you doin'? Keep away from her! You two can't come together! You gotta' hold up my end a' this deal. I got nobody now! Nobody! You can't betray me! You gotta' represent me now! You're my son! (565-566)

The Old Man is pretty much unable to deal with everything that his bigamy brought about, including his kids being in love with each other. He desperately just wants to retreat into his own version of things without the unpleasant truth getting in the way, but right now (as his kids are making lovey eyes at each other) that's getting pretty difficult.