As I Lay Dying

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The action of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is simple: Addie Bundren dies; and in answer to her wishes, the body is taken for burial to Jefferson, some forty miles away. But the weather intervenes, and floodwaters require that the cortege take detours. Some nine days pass before the coffin, which before long clearly announces its passing to neighboring places, is finally laid to rest. These days involve battling flood water and a fire set by one of the children, the threat of buzzards, the hazards of a broken leg, and other incidental losses and disasters.

In the end, after Addie is buried, her bereaved husband appears with the second Mrs. Bundren. She brings with her a gramophone as dowry, and the Bundren family is once again reunited, with the exception of Darl, who has been sent to the state hospital.Faulkner exposed the Bundren family to two of the greatest disasters known to man: Flood and Fire. But As I Lay Dying is not merely a story of disasters or of a mission nobly achieved in spite of serious difficulties. Nor is it simply a comedy of horrors.

Whatever it has of biblical or legendary suggestiveness is a matter of inference. Primarily the novel is a psychological study of several perspectives upon truth, and the truth in this case is not dying, but the circumstances of being born and of the living.This interpretation of the novel makes Addie imperatively its center. It is her consciousness and her memory of the Bundren past that makes the narrative passages of her family what they are: reflections in both style and point of view of the place of each Bundren in the whole. Addie has only one monologue to herself, but it is the key to the novel. It is ironically placed in the external action after her son, Jewel, has rescued her coffin from floodwaters.

The monologue occurs "as I lay dying," but it is revealed to us that she lay dead, her will still powerfully dictating the acts and temperaments of her children.As the passage begins, Addie remembers her life as a schoolgirl before her marriage to Anse. To get away from the hateful school she took Anse; and she shortly discovered, with the birth of their first child, that "living was terrible and that this was no answer to it. That was when I learned that that words are no good; that words don't ever fit even what they are trying to say." (Faulkner AILD pg.171). These wor...

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... children of Anse and only indifferently of Addie. Vardaman's style of monologue even approaches Darl's, in spite of a disparity in their ages. Darl's curious power to see beyond space and time barriers is also explained; his speculation upon being is directly related to his sense of isolation from his mother. Darl says, "I don't know what I am. I don't know if I am or not.

Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not." Jewel is in terms of Addie's being; when Addie dies and is finally buried, Jewel's is will become was. But Darl's existence depends on his breaking through that being; and when he fails, he fails altogether of being and goes off to the house of schizophrenics in Jackson, where the disparity of being and not being will not matter.The affairs of the Bundren's are seen in the alternating bright glare and fitful light of their divergent conciousnesses. So far as they are concerned, their eccentricities are sufficiently explained. But it all comes together with Addie's chapter. Her monologue is the needle that ties up many loose ends. Faulkner essentially uses her to put everything together. Addie is Faulkner's glue.

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