"The Marry Month of May" Characters

The main characters in “The Marry Month of May” are Mr. Coulson, Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson, and Mrs. Widdup.

  • Mr. Coulson is a rich old gentleman who suffers from gout and is given to worry and self-pity. The month of May makes him sentimental and inspires him to propose to Mrs. Widdup by quoting poetry.
  • Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson is Mr. Coulson’s thirty-five-year-old daughter. Though apparently lacking in feeling, she ultimately elopes with the iceman.
  • Mrs. Widdup is the Coulsons’ good-natured forty-year-old housekeeper. She accepts Mr. Coulson’s marriage proposal despite not understanding his literary references.

Characters

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Mr. Coulson

Mr. Coulson, like all the other characters in “The Marry Month of May,” is not psychologically complex. He is portrayed as a rather irascible old hypochondriac, troubled by gout and worried about his health in general. He is rich and seems to be a member of the hereditary upper class, or at least to have been rich for a very long time. His first instinct when anything is not to his liking is to call for a servant and order them to put it right.

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The author twice describes an almost magical transformation in Mr. Coulson, when he breathes in the warm spring air, scented with flowers, and is suddenly overcome by a sentimental urge to marry. This emotional susceptibility should not be regarded as part of Mr. Coulson’s essential character, as the point the author is making is precisely that the month of May has this effect on the most unlikely people. However, the way in which he conducts himself when under the influence of springtime does reveal something of his personality. Significantly, both times he begins to propose to Mrs. Widdup, he begins by mentioning that he has half a million dollars. Even when he is at his most sentimental, he is aware that his money is the most attractive thing about him. His conventional cast of mind is also demonstrated by the clichés he employs when proposing and his instinct to quote Tennyson when he cannot think how to express himself. He also has a tendency toward self-pity, remarking that no one in the household would care if he died “for want of attention.”

Miss Van Meeker Constantia Coulson

Miss Coulson’s collection of names, suggestive of aristocratic Dutch ancestry like that of the Roosevelts and the Vanderbilts, reflects her haughty demeanor and strong sense of class consciousness. She is thirty-five years old, unmarried, and, as it first appears, impervious to any emotion. Her emotional coldness makes it appropriate that ice is her weapon of choice in attempting to prevent her father from proposing marriage. It also makes it symbolically appropriate that she should elope with “the iceman,” though her snobbery makes it unlikely that she would really run away with anyone from his social class.

Miss Coulson seems to have a distant relationship with her father. She comes “dutifully” to inquire after his gout but has little to say to him, and that little is about the weather. She is also, of course, prepared to freeze him in order to prevent him from making a marriage she regards as unsuitable, then to leave his house without a word in order to make an unsuitable match of her own. Her behavior throughout the story suggests that she is selfish, wilful, and accustomed always to getting her own way.

Mrs. Widdup

Mrs. Widdup is an attractive woman of forty who is employed as housekeeper by Mr. Coulson. She appears good-natured and somewhat vague. She does not understand the specific comments Mr. Coulson makes when he begins to propose marriage to her and is unfamiliar with the poetry he quotes. However, she understands his general intention well enough and is eager to accept...

(The entire section contains 888 words.)

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