Throughout the novella, love is a recurring theme. It tells the story about the feeling of unrequited love, illustrated through the three main characters in the book. Miss Amelia Evans, Cousin Lymon Willis, and Marvin Macy, who are the players involved in sort of a love triangle.
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Marvin Macy is described as a handsome man with a terrible character. He used to be a notorious womanizer and had a history of sadistic activities. When he meets Miss Amelia, he wants to marry her and become a better man. Miss Amelia Evans was a wealthy and lonely woman. She felt no connection with Macy and sought a relationship only out of economic advantage. The two married and lived together only for ten days before they separated because she refuses to consummate the marriage. Marvin Macy took refuge in criminal activity and was sent to prison.
Many years down the line, a man named Lymon Willis came into Miss Amelia’s life. He was a distant cousin and a deformed hunchback, yet this did not stop Amelia from falling for him. Amelia catered to his every need, giving him everything she could possibly offer him, as Marvin had once done for her. In return for all her efforts, Lymon was very ungrateful. He only offered his mere companionship, but he took advantage of her feelings. Instead of loving her back or be grateful for her treatment of him, Cousin Lymon chose to betray her.
Because of her misfortunes, Miss Amelia made the decision to close her café and along with that the last ounce of excitement in the abandoned district disappears. It seems as though all hope had been lost. The loneliness of the town symbolizes the loneliness of the main characters. Miss Amelia Evans was loved by Marvin Macy yet she never loved him back. Miss Amelia Evans loved Lymon yet he never loved her back. Lymon loved Marvin Macy who also never loved him back.
McCullers depicts love as a force, often strong enough to change people’s attitudes and behaviours. Yet, the author seems to say, if the love is unrequited, individuals, having lost their motivation to change, will revert back to their true selves. The different characters seem to indicate that feelings of love and attraction are not necessarily reasonable or understandable to others.