The Nature of a Crazy Family in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

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The Nature of a Crazy Family in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

"My mother is a fish." (p. 79)

I think that this statement typifies the entire family. There is something not-quite-right about all of them. Vardeman, as Cora Tull says on page 70, is "outen his head with grief and worry" for his mother. He has confused her with the fish because they both died on the same day. In his child's mind he cannot differentiate between the two. Throughout the novel he refers to his mother as a fish, as on page 196. In this scene, he is looking at the vultures that have gathered over the wagon. Darl and Cash are trying to get Cash's broken leg situated better for the rest of the ride. Vardeman thinks that his "mother is not in the box. My mother does not smell like that. My mother is a fish."

Darl is slowly going crazy. He is referred to as being "queer, lazy, pottering about the place no better than Anse" on page 24. However, his true madness is not shown until his monologue at the end of the novel after he has been arrested for burning the barn. Cash believes he did so to try to rid them of Addie's body, but Darl never reveals his motivations. In his final section he seems to be looking in on himself. He refers to his body as Darl, and he asks himself "'What are you laughing at?'" All the answer he gets is "'Yes yes yes yes yes'" (253).

Dewey Dell is obsessed with sex and her unwanted pregnancy. Every man that looks at her she looks at with "her eyes kind of blaring up and going hard like [they] had made to touch her" as she does with Tull on page 124. Even in trying to get rid of the fetus, however, she is confronted with sex. She is none the wiser to the wiles of the ‘doctor’ until afterwards when she says, “’It won’t work [ . . . ] I just know it won’t’” (252).

Jewel has some less-than-healthy fascination with his horse. While he frequently beats it about the head, he still refers to it as a “’sweet son of a bitch’” (13). He was willing to work all night every night for weeks in order to buy the horse, and he disappears for a while when Anse barters it for the new team.

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