Marie draws strength from the memory of her husband Michael. She focuses on happy times, like their wedding day.
Then I was married and Michael brought me here and the rain stopped; it even looked like the sun had come out...
Marie also likes to tell her children that:
Your daddy was a good man and a brave man . . . and he’s in heaven watching out for you. . .and that’s what keeps me going, keeps me strong . . .
However, Marie is reluctant to face the truth about Michael. His real nature is revealed towards the end of the play, but we have already been given significant clues that Marie is living an illusion.
There is pathos in Marie’s comment in her monologue at the end of scene one that
Sometimes he said he loved me when he’d no drink in him at all which suggests she is desperately trying to convince herself that Michael loved her.
Marie reveals that her positive outlook does not come naturally to her. When Cassie wonders
How do you keep that smile on your face? Marie replies:
Super-glue, making it clear that her optimism is an act.
Cassie brutally confronts Marie with the truth in scene four. After Marie’s stubborn insistence that men are not all the same, and that
We were honest with each other! Cassie tells her that he was
making a fool of her with all those women and that
We [ie: Cassie and Michael] were both lying to you for years!
Marie reacts badly to this revelation- after throwing Cassie out, she
screams a great howl of pain and loss. She tries to repeat her mantra of
Your daddy was a good man” but is unable to.
After the second shocking revelation (that Michael was Deirdre’s father) Marie’s words to Deirdre show that she has faced up to painful reality:
Your daddy was a man, like any other.
At the end of the play, Marie’s earlier characteristics re-emerge. She makes Deirdre breakfast and keeps the bread crusts to feed the birds. She feels a particular kinship with the birds as they, like her, are trying to survive in difficult circumstances.
…it’s easy enough to build a great wee nest when you’ve a whole forest to fly in, but you’d need to be something special to build one round the Falls.