Too Much Love
In the short story Amahl and the Night Visitors: A Guide to the Tenor of Love, Lorrie Moore tells the readers about overprotective relationships. She uses this story to show her opinion that being overprotective doesn’t work and that being overprotective and jealous is counterproductive and in fact can destroy a relationship. She tells us about a woman who is overbearing in not one but two relationships as well as her job and in the end after all her worrying and fighting she lets them go. Rather than enjoy and build on her relationships she questions and worries about them. Too late, she comes to the realization that she cannot be everything to someone and by trying to do so she smothers and pushes them away. In the end she just has to let go.
Throughout the short story there is an ever present theme of not letting go. The first is shopping downtown. Trudy works tirelessly in a failing store that really doesn’t have a chance at making enough sales because everyone is buying at a mall instead of going downtown to spend their money. Instead of realizing this she comes up with crazy ideas to bring people in to her store like posting signs outside the building showing unpaired shoes stating that the mates are inside. Her thinking was that the customers would go crazy looking for the mates and would shop in her store for them. This might also foreshadow that she will be looking for a new mate for herself soon.
Another thing that Trudy refuses to let go is her live in boyfriend Moss Watson, the man that she says she truly loves. He is a musician, an Opera singer who is part of a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors where he plays one of the three kings. He is a very mysterious man, receiving callers that will hang up when Trudy answers, but that he talks to in hushed tones. Even though Trudy tries hard to track him down and figure out his whereabouts at all times his furtive behavior makes him able to avoid her. The final thing that Trudy holds onto too tightly and the last one to enter her life is her cat, who used to be known as Stardust Sweetheart. This cat’s former life, the same place that it got its former name was with the man that lives downstairs, Trudy’s friend Bob. Her cat easily transitioned from his home to hers. The cat constantly desires to be free to roam outside, sitting at the window wishing she could leave. Trudy will not allow herself to let the cat outdoors, afraid she might get hurt.
Moore uses Trudy’s relationship with this cat throughout the book to symbolize one of her other relationships, the one with her boyfriend, and it isn’t that she just wants to keep them both close. From the beginning of their time in Trudy’s life they share similarities. Moss started their relationship after the one with his ex-wife ended and the cat quickly went to her after its relationship with Bob ended. When the cat grows older it begins to want outside, it’s “taken to the front window like a hypochondriac takes to a bed” (Moore 107). Moss often tells her to let the cat outside, but she doesn’t think that it is time yet. She often says something about not letting the cat out, afraid that Moss will let her outside. This seems to be more of a cover for the attention she focuses on Moss but for her to appear less obsessive towards him. When she calls him during his production practice she says that it is to “tell him not to let the cat out” (Moore 99), when clearly her real reason for calling is to check up on him. She lays awake in bed waiting for him to go to bed, making it seem like she is doing this out of worry that he’ll let the cat out, and that she can sleep once she knows he hasn’t. Really though she is staying awake to see when he comes home, to make sure he comes home, hoping that he’ll be affectionate when he does, though he never is.
Trudy’s relationship with Moss seems to be deteriorating, he leaves telling her that he is “going out to get a hamburger” (Moore 108) and then comes home at four in the morning with no explanation. He acts as though he is trying to escape from her, saying he is at rehearsal for the production and when she checks –up on him, like she always seems to do, he isn’t there. He takes any opportunity he can just to get away from her; her over protective smothering behavior is too much for him.
In this short story the big turning point is when she heads to the mall for the first time. Sure she’s going there to check up on her boyfriend but in the beginning of the short story this seems like something that would never happen, Trudy would not go to the mall. The mall is the bane of the store she works at, it’s the mall that takes away all her customers. She has been working too hard revitalizing the downtown area and enticing shoppers to her store to go to the mall, but it’s the first thing that she lets go of, and quickly the others follow. Upon going there she accuses her boyfriend of cheating on her, this time with Bob and that is the last straw for Moss. He is angry enough that he leaves her in the mall saying that he needs to be away from her for a while. When she goes home she lets the cat out for the first time thinking that “outside, undoubtedly, there are suitors” (Moore 113) just like there are other women outside for her boyfriend.
Her use of personification to describe her cat as a “whore” and how she easily moves from one person to the next forgetting about the last describes her now ex-boyfriend with the realization that the cat does symbolize him. When he is always saying that she should let the cat outside, he is really saying that he should be let go. Saying to her that he’ll be fine being free, being on his own. Lorrie Moore shows the reader, through her short story Amahl and the Night Visitors: A Guide to the Tenor of Love, that when you care for someone to much you can smother them and they will leave. This short story fits into the Self Help collection perfectly showing the reader that you have to let go, and gives a guide to doing so.
Moore, Lorrie. Self-Help. New York: Vintage, 1985. Print.