The Ballad of the Sad Cafe


Word Count: 652

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe by Carson
McCullers is a story of love illustrated through the romantic
longings and attractions of the three eccentric characters;
Miss Amelia, Cousin Lymon, and Marvin Macy. McCullers
depicts love as a force, often strong enough to change
people\'s attitudes and behaviors. 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 allure of the different characters, which is never revealed
by the author, seems to indicate that feelings of love and
attraction are not necessarily reasonable or understandable
to others. Miss Amelia is self-reliant, outspoken and very
much a loner. She stands six foot one inch tall and has a
strong, masculine build. Her grey eyes are crossed, and the
rest of her features are equally unattractive. Yet, the people
of the small, southern town of Cheehaw accept her
quirkiness because of the equisite wine that she sells in her
store and for her free doctoring and homemade remedies.
Still, everyone is shocked when the handsome outlaw,
Marvin Macy, falls in love with her. Marvin is a "bold,
fearless, and cruel" man who changes his unlawful ways to
win Miss Amelia\'s love. Rather than robbing houses he
begins attending church services on Sunday mornings. In an
effort to court Miss Amelia, he learns proper etiquette, such
as "rising and giving his chair to a lady, and abstaining from
swearing and fighting". Two years after Marvin\'s
reformation, he asks Miss Amelia to marry him. Miss Amelia
does not love him but agrees to the marriage in order to
satisfy her great-aunt. Once married, Miss Amelia is very
aloof towards her husband and refuses to engage in marital
relations with him. After ten days, Miss Amelia ends the
marriage because she finds that she is unable to generate any
positive feelings for Marvin. Several months after the
divorce, Marvin reverts back to his initial corrupt ways and
is "sent to a state penitentiary for robbing filling stations and
holding up A & P stores". Just as love had changed Marvin,
so too did it change Miss Amelia. In the mid 1930\'s, several
years after Miss Amelia\'s divorce, Lymon, a hunchback,
comes to Miss Amelia claiming to be a distant cousin. She
readily provides Cousin Lymon with food and board, and
eventually any material object that he desires. The people of
the town grow very curious of her new guest and of Miss
Amelia\'s hospitality towards Lymon which is contrary to her
characteristic untrusting and remote ways. The townspeople
gather in her store one evening to meet Cousin Lymon.
Unlike Miss Amelia, Cousin Lymon is very sociable and
enjoys entertaining the townsfolk with his patently tall tales.
In a short period of time, Miss Amelia\'s store is converted
into a cafe where people gather for food, drink, and gossip.
They would discuss Miss Amelia\'s love for Cousin Lymon,
indicating that they thought love between cousins is
forbidden and incestuous. Her changed behavior, in Lymon\'s
presence, preoccupied and baffled them. Ever since Cousin
Lymon\'s appearance, Miss Amelia would regularly wear a
red dress that had been worn exclusively on Sundays. They
also noted that, before he arrived, she would only leave her
house to go to church or to pick up supplies for her store.
While, when Cousin Lymon moves in, realizing that he loves
to travel, she would often drive with him into the city and go
to see "movie-flicks" with him. Before the story ends,
Marvin Macy is released from prison and returns to
Cheehaw. Cousin Lymon, unaware of Miss Amelia\'s short-
lived marriage to the criminal is fascinated by Marvin\'s
adventurous life. He leaves Miss Amelia, never having
returned her love, to travel with Marvin. Broken-hearted,
Miss Amelia returns to her original reclusive style of living.
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe enjoyably and precisely portrays
the irrational nature of love in the ill-fated love triangle of
Miss Amelia, Cousin Lymon, and Marvin Macy. None of
the three characters are portrayed as particularly appealing
people, yet they were loved. People love for very different
reasons, " A most mediocre person can be the object of a
love which is wild, extravagant, and beautiful as the poison
lillies of the swamp." The Ballad of the Sad Cafe Story by:
Carson McCullers Copyright date: 1951