What is the nature of Wayne's relationship with Mary in Jacob's Wake by Michael Cook?

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of Skipper's children in Jacob's Wake, by Michael Cook, Mary is his only daughter. While at the beginning of the play she seems to be on good terms with her sister-in-law (Rosie), and a dedicated teacher and woman of faith, it does not take long to realize her true character. She is hateful and cruel: she and her brother Winston verbally abuse each other constantly. She is hypercritical even of her father, who has been bedridden from a seafaring accident that took his legs (and the life of his favorite son, Jacob) thirty years before.

Mary has no sympathy for her dying father. Her self-righteous attitudes show her to be less than the Christian example she holds up for other members of the family to follow. In Act One, scene two, she is playing the radio, telling Skipper (her father) that the hymns would be of help to him (but in a critical way, not as a source of comfort). He tells her to turn off the radio or he'll come down and destroy it. She shows her father no respect whatsoever:

MARY: shouting

Don't be talking such nonsense. Ye haven't been out of that bed for thirty years and what miracles will occur this day aren’t likely to happen in this Godforsaken house.

SKIPPER: hammering [his stick] furiously

Ye bousy ol 'bitch. I'll...

Rosie, the peacemaker, turns off the radio and then defends her father-in-law to Mary, saying:

Now, Mary, ye knows how he is. And he's not much longer fer dis world, God rest his soul...

Mary responds that she doubts "...God will rest his soul."

In witnessing this interaction (and the many between Mary and Winston where Mary criticizes not only her brother, but also all of his children, and even Rosie, who is kindness and patience personified), we find few redeeming qualities in Mary's character.

Mary does, however, have a very close relationship with her nephew, Wayne, who she has helped to raise as if he were her own son. Mary encouraged Wayne's college education; he is Winston and Rosie's only successful child.

When Wayne arrives, Winston and Alonzo spitefully infer that there was an incestuous relationship between Mary and Wayne when Wayne was growing up. When Mary complains to Rosie about the men's torment of Wayne (not having heard the specifics), Rosie, to placate Mary, says it was "only a friendly game of cards."

Mary makes every exception for Wayne. For example, when Rosie Rosie begins to prepare food for her "boys"—Mary says they can take care of themselves. She adds that Wayne is different:

I'm sure Wayne, at least, wouldn't expect you to put yourself out.

However, Mary does the same kinds of things for Wayne as Rosie does for all of her boys.

At one point, Mary and Wayne speak of moving into a house together, away from the family. She doesn't want to be a "burden." He offers to get her a job. As they speak, stage direction infers a strange relationship:

It is a moment of complete sympathy and bonding between them. 

While it is not a sexual relationship as Winston alluded, it is not that of an aunt-nephew or mother-son. Mary emotionally clings too closely to Wayne. She is too dependent on him—and it's more than friendship. She idolizes him. Mary shows affection for Wayne that one might feel for a first love.

Mary has no connection with her father, brother, his sons, or even Rosie—who she harshly criticizes at the end; but her rapport with Wayne gives one pause. In my first reading of the play I noted—Mary and Wayne's relationship is weird

Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mary and Winston are Skipper's children (their brother Jacob is long dead). Wayne is one of Winston and Rosie's three sons. This makes Wayne Mary's nephew and she his aunt. She is particular in speech and deportment. Wayne is a (corrupt) politician. Wayne's association with the well respected Mary gives him some prestige. There are hint of an improper physical relationship between them, which, if it existed, is broken off when she asks him to give up his corruption.