William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

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“The past is never dead. It's not even past.” ― William Faulkner In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, characterization, specifically through the multitude of narrators, transforms an otherwise pedestrian plot into a complex pilgrimage to the truth. As I Lay Dying is told from the perspective of fifteen different characters in 59 chapters (Tuck 35). Nearly half (7) of the characters from whose perspective the story is narrated are members of the same family, the Bundrens. The other characters are onlookers of the Bundrens’ journey to bury their mother, Addie. Each character responds to the events that are unfolding in a unique way and his or her reactions help to characterize themselves and others. “…each private world manifests a fixed and distinctive way of reacting to and ordering experiences” (Vickery 50). They may choose to constrain their reaction to the realm of audible indulgence in the form of word, through the actions they take, or by reflecting upon the situation in contemplation. These responses shed light upon what kind of personality each character possesses. On a conscious level the characters make decisions based upon three criteria. They can act on sensation, they can use reason for guidance, or they can act upon their innate intuition. “Faulkner is able to indicate the particular combination of sensation, reason, and intuition possessed by each of his characters… through a subtle manipulation of language and style” (Vickery 51). Faulkner portrays each character through their thought process and thus characterizes them as the product of their choices. The eight non-Bundrens, friends, neighbors, and onlookers alike, are employed by Faulkner to characterize the family members, however the credence of t... ... middle of paper ... ...s against us lazily” (Faulkner 158). Works Cited Campbell, Harry Modean, and Ruel E. Foster. A Critical Appraisal. New York: Cooper Square Publishers, Inc., 1970 Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York; Vintage Books, 1985 Kinney, Arthur F. Faulkner’s Narrative Poetics Style as Vision. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1978 Magill, Frank N. “William Faulkner.” Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Englewood Cliffs: American Libraries, 1985 Morris, Wesley. Reading Faulkner. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1989 Tuck, Dorothy. Crowell’s Handbook of Faulkner. New York; Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1964 Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner A Critical Interpretation. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1959 Wadlington, Warwick. As I Lay Dying: Stories out of Stories. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992
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