William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying"

Powerful Essays
In As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner uses the characters Anse and Cash, and a motif/symbol in "My mother is a fish," to reveal the psychological and societal problems of the twenties and thirties. Written as soon as the panic surrounding the stock market in 1929 started, Faulkner is reported as having, “took one of these [onion] sheets, unscrewed the cap from his fountain pen, and wrote at the top in blue ink, 'As I Lay Dying.' Then he underlined it twice and wrote the date in the upper right-hand corner"(Atkinson 15) We must take care to recognize Faulkner not as a man of apathy, but one of great compassion and indignation at the collapse of the economic foundation of the U.S. This is central in appreciating the great care with which he describes the desolation and poor landscape of Yoknapatawpha County, which is where As I Lay Dying takes place.

Faulkner personifies the disabling effect of the Great Depression through Anse, specifically his inability to sweat after a heat stroke in his youth, through his multi-faceted character,” I have never seen a sweat stain on his shirt. He was sick once from working in the sun when he was twenty-two years old, and he tells people that if he ever sweats, he will die. I suppose he believes it"(Faulkner 17). When Anse gets another wife, he reinforces the psychological need of those in the Great Depression to be able to move on, and forget the troubling times (some Freudian repression). As is illustrated in the above passage, no one has ever seen Anse sweat, and Anse goes so far as to tell people of the possible fatality that sweating may result in, regardless of whether or not people believe him. It is seen rather clearly that throughout the novel, no one believes that Anse cannot wo...

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...s the "fish". This is what As I Lay Dying was written for, to provide a context for those who are seemingly indifferent and apathetic to stop being hypocrites and to start helping their fellow neighbors.

Works Cited

Atkinson, Ted. “The ideology of autonomy: form and function in as I Lay Dying.” Faulkner Journal 21.1 (2005): page nr. Literature Resources From Gale. Web. 18 Apr. 2010.

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. 1930. Edited by Noel Polk. New York: Vintage, 1985. Print.

Hewson, Marc. “'My children were of me alone': Maternal Influence in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying.” Mississippi Quarterly 54.4 (2001): 595-95. Literature Resources From Gale. Web. 18 Apr. 2010.

Rita, Rippetoe. “Unstained shirt, stained character: Anse Bundren reread.” Mississippi Quarterly 54.3 (2001): page nr. Literature Resources From Gale. Web. 18 Apr. 2010.