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Adam Cooper Cooper 1 In one of William Faulkner’s
greatest novels, As I lay Dying, the character’s
selfishness is revealed. As I Lay Dying is a
detailed account of the Bundren’s family trek
across Mississippi to bury Addie, their wife and
mother. As Addie is dying, all the characters go
through a different state of emotions, all of
which are explained in fifty-nine chapters. An
analysis of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying
reveals the importance of goals, mishaps, and
characters as they look on the death of Addie.
During the initial stage after Addie’s death three
main goals are exposed: burying her, getting new
teeth for Anse, and getting an abortion for Dewey
Dell. According to George Wolfe, “Addie’s section
is narrated in tense, cryptic, and expository
prose because Addie is a person who has tried to
solve some of the basic problems of life and has
failed” (203). To Cash, his mother is his world,
and he does not realize she dies because he is too
busy trying to build her a coffin.

The family is
able to deal with Addie’s death as a whole,
although Vardaman has a harder time, while Dewey
Dell is anxious for other reasons all together.
According to Warren, “Throughout Addie’s life, she
lived with a man that was emotionally dead from
the beginning, and it basically killed her” (172).
Anse was always a selfish man, so, it is no
surprise he is ready to get to Jefferson County
for his own selfish reasons, his teeth. Dewey Dell
is just as anxious to reach Jefferson County to
have an abortion. During the Journey to Jefferson
County, they face mishaps, a flood and a fire,
which temporarily keep the family from being able
to bury their loved one. The Yoknapatawpha River
floods and forces them to use an alternate bridge,
this event turns out to be a major mistake,
because regardless of the damage done to the
bridge by the flood, they cross it. In turn Cash
breaks his leg and they almost lose Addie to the
river. They also have to buy new mules for the
rest of the trip.

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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 that
he saw something, but Dewey Dell tells him not to
say a thing. From the beginning to the end, the
characters reveal their emotions about the death
of Addie. From Darl’s longest chapter to
Vardaman’s, “My mother is a fish,” They all feel
lost and incomplete without Addie. Warren remarks,
“Anger, hatred, jealousy, loyalty, reverence,
fear- Faulkner creates a panorama as he presents
the characters dramatically” (290). Anse, being
one of the laziest characters, believes that
people are put on earth to care for him now.

Cash
is the oldest of the children. According to
Warren, he refers to himself as “The builder who
sacrifices himself for his family” (290). Darl,
who is the most complex, yet oddest character, is
the most involved. He is confused on how he feels
about his mother’s death because he was always
denied her love. Hillgrass states, “He was able to
accept that he was the “unwanted” and “motherless”
child (64). Jewel, who is not Anse’s child, loves
his mother.

He is the one who saves her through
the flood and the fire. He, by a considerable
amount, was his mother’s favorite child. Dewey
Dell, the only girl, was never close to her mom.
She, like her father, only goes to Jefferson
County for personal reasons. She can never think
of one thing for a long time; her mind jumps from
all around. Last, Vardamanm who is the youngest
child was not born out of love, but to replace
another child. Being the youngest, he is the most
affected by his mother’s death.

He has weird
experiences that consist of handling a dead fish,
dealing with the death of his mother being caught
in the barn, and unable to breathe. The whole
family seems to be affected, yet each in his own
way. Bryfonski states, “The entire structure of As
I Lay Dying is dialectical, involving a continual
and fructifying movement between inner and outer
world” (Bryfonki 205). Even though the family has
a frustrating time getting to Jefferson County to
bury their loved one, the family makes it together
and buries Addie. As I Lay Dying is a unique
novel, based on the lives of an odd family during
the 1900’s. It is a bizarre, yet powerful story of
a family’s struggle to work together to resolve
its conflicts.

Modern readers can recognize the
aspects of the dysfunctional family that Faulkner
depicts and learn from the interactions of the
unusual members. A critic remarks “Faulkner the
humanistic realist is never sensational”
(Bryfonski) 172-73) As I Lay Dying surely insured
Faulkner’s place in writing history. Bibliography:.

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