Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Siddhartha Gautama Buddha

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At the turn of the twentieth century with the industrial revolution in full effect the world was becoming a more modern place. At the same time, however, people were forced to turn to their more barbaric instincts. Modernist writer William Faulkner uses the Bundren family of his novel As I Lay Dying to exemplify the chaos and deterioration of an unprepared society thrust into the industrial world. Faulkner then juxtaposes the dysfunctional Bundren family with the archetypal oracle or prophet in Darl Bundren. In fact, Faulkner’s portrayal of Darl suggests many similarities between Darl Bundren and Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. These comparisons can be made with both the narrative account of Darl’s life and with theological concepts expressed by Darl. On a literal level there are several basic similarities between the character Darl Bundren of Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. The fathers of Gautama Buddha and Darl both worry about their children leaving home. Wishing for his son to succeed him as king, Gautama Buddha’s father keeps his son at home and shelters him from the outside world. Darl's father Anse Bundren also feels that Darl should “stay put like a tree or a stand of corn” and not “be always a-moving and going somewhere else” (Faulkner 36). There is also a striking similarity between the events that begin Gautama Buddha’s quest for enlightenment and Darl’s quest for enlightenment. Gautama Buddha feels the need to seek meaning in life after seeing suffering for the first time. Darl’s quest for enlightenment begins after seeing his mother’s death. Even though Darl does no actually see his mother’s death in person, he experiences it consciously, which is more than any other memb... ... middle of paper ... ...t is much more reasonable to assume that the similarities are a result of the collective unconscious. Faulkner and Gautama Buddha were both intelligent individuals who were disgusted by what they saw in society. Faulkner’s response to an unappealing society was to step back and explore the collective unconscious, which led to his view that simplification is the key to happiness. This perfectly mirrors the teachings of Gautama Buddha thousands of years prior. It is because of Faulkner’s experience with the collective unconscious that his portrayal of Darl Bundren in his novel As I Lay Dying lends merit to comparisons made between Darl and Buddhism’s founder Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. So while similarities between Darl Bundren and Gautama Buddha are inadvertent, they do lead to an interesting study of the two as excellent examples of the archetypal oracle or prophet.

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