As I Lay Dying Essays: The Dysfunctional Family

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After reading As I Lay Dying, I was unsettled by something. It wasn't the plot, although As I Lay Dying had a singularly bizarre storyline. During the action of the novel a mother dies, and her family embarks upon a disaster ridden journey in order to fulfill her last wishes. The eldest son breaks his leg, the family has to sell or mortgage practically all it's worldly goods, and Jewel risks his life twice in order to get his mother's body to Jefferson. Why has Disney not snatched up the film making rights to this singular testament to Bundren family's love and dedication? The answer, and the source of my discomfort, is that the Bundren family is awful. They are almost completely and totally defunct. The fact that there is next to no mourning following Addie's death, the most basic tribute a family can give, is only the tip of the iceberg of selfishness which seems to characterize the Bundren family. The trip to Jefferson, a journey which under other circumstances could be seen as a family's noble tribute to a fallen matriarch, was ruined by the selfish motives of most of the family for undertaking the expedition. Dewey Dell wanted to go to get an abortion. Vardaman wanted to go to get some bananas. Anse wanted to go to get a new set of teeth. Cash wanted to purchase a record player. Not only were the motives selfish, but they were utterly transparent. The Bundren's neighbor Tull expresses the absurdity of the situation best when he said, "They would risk the fire and the earth and the water and all just to eat a sack of bananas." (p. 140) Indeed, the last images of the Bundren's as a family (minus Darl) are of them eating bananas out of a sack, and sitting around a record player at home. There were two members of the family, however, with no ulterior motives for going into town. Jewel and Darl seem to have no object in getting to town other than the burial of Addie Bundren. Both Darl and Jewel have special connections with their mother. It is tempting to draw the conclusion that Darl loved his mother the most. He narrated the majority of the chapters in the novel, and as readers we grow most accustomed to his voice. Cora Tull is certainly under impression that Darl loves his mother the most when she says, "it was between her and Darl that the true understanding and the true love was.

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