Adam Cooper Cooper 1 In one of William Faulkner’sgreatest novels, As I lay Dying, the character’sselfishness is revealed. As I Lay Dying is adetailed account of the Bundren’s family trekacross Mississippi to bury Addie, their wife andmother. As Addie is dying, all the characters gothrough a different state of emotions, all ofwhich are explained in fifty-nine chapters. Ananalysis of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dyingreveals the importance of goals, mishaps, andcharacters as they look on the death of Addie.During the initial stage after Addie’s death threemain goals are exposed: burying her, getting newteeth for Anse, and getting an abortion for DeweyDell. According to George Wolfe, “Addie’s sectionis narrated in tense, cryptic, and expositoryprose because Addie is a person who has tried tosolve some of the basic problems of life and hasfailed” (203).
To Cash, his mother is his world,and he does not realize she dies because he is toobusy trying to build her a coffin.The family isable to deal with Addie’s death as a whole,although Vardaman has a harder time, while DeweyDell is anxious for other reasons all together.According to Warren, “Throughout Addie’s life, shelived with a man that was emotionally dead fromthe beginning, and it basically killed her” (172).Anse was always a selfish man, so, it is nosurprise he is ready to get to Jefferson Countyfor his own selfish reasons, his teeth.
Dewey Dellis just as anxious to reach Jefferson County tohave an abortion. During the Journey to JeffersonCounty, they face mishaps, a flood and a fire,which temporarily keep the family from being ableto bury their loved one. The Yoknapatawpha Riverfloods and forces them to use an alternate bridge,this event turns out to be a major mistake,because regardless of the damage done to thebridge by the flood, they cross it.
In turn Cashbreaks his leg and they almost lose Addie to theriver. They also have to buy new mules for therest of the trip.Before they get to Jefferson,the family spends the night at Gillespie’s Place.In the middle of the night, the barn catches fire,and Addie is saved by Jewel. Vardaman swears thathe saw something, but Dewey Dell tells him not tosay a thing.
From the beginning to the end, thecharacters reveal their emotions about the deathof Addie. From Darl’s longest chapter toVardaman’s, “My mother is a fish,” They all feellost and incomplete without Addie. Warren remarks,”Anger, hatred, jealousy, loyalty, reverence,fear- Faulkner creates a panorama as he presentsthe characters dramatically” (290). Anse, beingone of the laziest characters, believes thatpeople are put on earth to care for him now.
Cashis the oldest of the children. According toWarren, he refers to himself as “The builder whosacrifices himself for his family” (290). Darl,who is the most complex, yet oddest character, isthe most involved. He is confused on how he feelsabout his mother’s death because he was alwaysdenied her love. Hillgrass states, “He was able toaccept that he was the “unwanted” and “motherless”child (64).
Jewel, who is not Anse’s child, loveshis mother.He is the one who saves her throughthe flood and the fire. He, by a considerableamount, was his mother’s favorite child. DeweyDell, the only girl, was never close to her mom.She, like her father, only goes to JeffersonCounty for personal reasons.
She can never thinkof one thing for a long time; her mind jumps fromall around. Last, Vardamanm who is the youngestchild was not born out of love, but to replaceanother child. Being the youngest, he is the mostaffected by his mother’s death.He has weirdexperiences that consist of handling a dead fish,dealing with the death of his mother being caughtin the barn, and unable to breathe.
The wholefamily seems to be affected, yet each in his ownway. Bryfonski states, “The entire structure of AsI Lay Dying is dialectical, involving a continualand fructifying movement between inner and outerworld” (Bryfonki 205). Even though the family hasa frustrating time getting to Jefferson County tobury their loved one, the family makes it togetherand buries Addie. As I Lay Dying is a uniquenovel, based on the lives of an odd family duringthe 1900’s. It is a bizarre, yet powerful story ofa family’s struggle to work together to resolveits conflicts.
Modern readers can recognize theaspects of the dysfunctional family that Faulknerdepicts and learn from the interactions of theunusual members. A critic remarks “Faulkner thehumanistic realist is never sensational”(Bryfonski) 172-73) As I Lay Dying surely insuredFaulkner’s place in writing history. Bibliography:.