Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.

A Cycle of Abandonment and Return

At the beginning of the play, May sits in silent protest to what she considers to be Eddie's unfair, badly timed, and surprising return to her life. Eddie shows up in May's life right when she thought she was over Eddie. To her, his arrival rips open healing wounds that she was trying to forget. May prevents Eddie from getting close to her again because she resents him for leaving her alone in the trailer and having an affair with the Countess behind her back while promising to come back soon—a promise she thinks he makes frequently and never fulfills. Though May is furious at Eddie for abandoning her alone in the middle of nowhere, she is proud of the steps she has taken to live on her own in a new place in a new town. Eddie's return to her makes her hate him because it brings up all of the pain he has caused her and reminds her of her love for Eddie.

May's love for Eddie also hurts because she knows it is a love that can never exist for long in peace. Because of their blood relation and their fiery spirits, Eddie and May are constantly haunted by their past. They challenge each other bitterly and know all of the right buttons to push to get each other's goat. Their love for each other is a competition to be the least vulnerable, the least needy, and the most willful and strong, yet their desire and love for each other makes them reveal their weaknesses to each other. Eddie's return troubles May because right when she thought she could live without Eddie, he has confirmed her belief in her need for him. Ironically, that need is so painful that she knows she needs him to go away. Throughout the play she swings back and forth from asking Eddie to leave and asking him to stay. Eddie threatens to leave and then alternately, refuses to leave. Their relationship is a seesaw of abandonment and returning that is repeated over and over again in the play as May retreats to the bathroom or Eddie goes outside the motel and then comes back. They repeat this pattern throughout the play and it is suggested the whole event of Eddie leaving and suddenly returning has been repeated over the years.


Eddie and May cannot live with or without each other. They feel destined to be together because of their common past and their mutual love, but the details of their past prevents them from having a healthy relationship. Their common love and past experience binds them together but their personalities and their knowledge of their blood relation tears them apart at the seems. Their incestuous relationship and the repetition of their love and hate, abandonment and reunions cause Eddie and May to be miserable when they are together or apart. Never whole without each other, Eddie and May know that they have met their match and soul mate in life in each other but are discovering again and again that a perfect reflection of oneself does not necessarily make the best life partner. Eddie and May clung to each other as teenagers because they were magnetically attracted to one another and because they both had so much in common. Both May and Eddie came from unstable households in the same Southwestern region of the United States. Both Eddie and May loved mothers who were dependent on an unstable, alcoholic, and often absent man. It just so happens that the man was the same man, the Old Man, who is father to both Eddie and May though he did not participate in many fatherly duties. May and Eddie were brought together through their common suffering and their witness to troubled adults, but the knowledge of their incestuous relationship complicated the relationship and foreshadowed its improbability and doom.

Love as Desire and Repulsion

Eddie repeats the sins of his father, the Old Man in his attempt at juggling relationships with May and the Countess. Throughout Eddie and May's childhoods, the Old Man alternately abandoned both Eddie and May's mothers. He left both women distraught and tortured by their passionate love for the same man—a man who never fully gave himself to one woman, and always abandoned them to return at an unannounced date. May feels a similar pain to her mother and has decided not to let her love for a wandering man like Eddie rule her life and her emotions. However, the knowledge that Eddie has lost May and that May cannot live with Eddie saddens both of them and leaves them each alone to face their future without each other. As the play suggests however, that future will inevitably involve additional emotional reunions and necessary, but painful instances of abandonment.

May hates Eddie for leaving her and loves him for returning. She hates him for returning because it conjures up her hateful feelings for Eddie's desertion. Eddie seems to have put the knowledge of their blood relation behind him but this knowledge haunts May and shames her. Besides her self-disgust for succumbing to Eddie's seductions whenever he returns to her, May's love for Eddie is tainted by the knowledge of their incest. May is disgusted with herself for giving Eddie second chances and she is repulsed by the familial nature of her sexual relationship with Eddie.