As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, with its multiple narrators and hickish language, can sometimes prove to be convoluted and rather confusing. The narrators, unfortunately, are no less confusing. Their language aside, each individual personality serves to put a spin on the bias that the information is delivered with, and, in speaking to each other, they further confuse the reader, as their individual motives are, generally speaking, unmentioned. However, there is one character who manages to cut through the fog of individuality and communicate to us what is happening in this novel. Vardaman, who is the youngest narrator, gives us insight into the goings-on of the Bundren family with a much lesser degree of confusion. He also gives us a look into the characters of the other narrators in this novel; his childish attempts at emulation reveal the actions of characters that we may not otherwise see. It is his childish mind that provides us with this viewpoint; he is innocent and unbiased. Although this is never directly said by Faulkner, we can infer it from Vardaman’s dialogue, which is the revealing aspect of all of the characters in this book.
At the beginning of the novel, Vardaman has gone fishing, and returns with a large fish. He has returned just in time to meet Peabody, the doctor, going into his house. He is instructed, by Dewey Dell, to clean and gut the fish, and to get it ready for her to cook for dinner. This scenario sets us up for our first insight into the mind of Vardaman. Addie dies shortly after Vardaman arrives home, and, because Peabody had arrived on the scene directly before the incident, Vardaman decides that Peabody is the offending party in the death of his mother. The incident that follows reveals Vardaman’s aptitude; his insight and intelligence are shown to us in the following few pages. After chasing Peabody’s team of horses off of the property with a stick, Vardaman retreats to the barn and enters the cow’s stall. “It is dark. I can hear wood, silence: I know them. But not living sounds, not even him. It is as though the dark were resolving him out of his integrity, into an unrelated scattering of components...” It is this sort of language that reveals Vardaman’s character as an intellectual force to be reckoned with; not much gets past him, even in his youth.

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