In reading the novel As I Lay Dying, many questions arose in my mind. However, the one that plagued me was the question that I could not pin down. All of the characters in the book have a personality and play a certain role in the tale. However, the one character who fascinated me, yet I could not explain was Cash. Is Cash a bigger player in the novel than it appears on the surface? I believe he is. Cash is the cog in the family that keeps the others from spinning away. Cash becomes, throughout the course of the novel, the patriarchal figure in the novel. He is thrust in to this position through his words, actions, and Anse's total lack of leadership. Cash becomes that patriarch. Diligence. Definition: " Close application, perseverance." "We can hear the sawing on the board. It sounds like snoring," (9). This quotation is a summation of Cash working on the coffin. Quotations such as these are thick in the beginning of the story. In fact, his work provides a backdrop the turmoil of the action which precedes the Burdens' departure. His work is constant through Jewel and Darl going for wood, Addie's actual death, and the search for a wagon to name a few problems. We are constantly reminded of the droning saw in the back ground. Additionally, we are also told of Cash's attention to the details. He is totally focused on his work. The work on the coffin is a metaphor for Cash's diligence throughout the novel. It becomes a template for many of Cash's actions throughout the story. Cash is the one member of the family who has something to do and does it well. In his words, "It is better to build a tight chicken coop, than a shoddy courthouse," (234). By this he means that it is better to do a good job on all projects t...
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... like in a person. He is strong and appears to be intelligent. He seems to posses a logic that is missing in all the rest of the characters in this novel. I have already discussed the specific qualities that makes Cash the patriarchal center of his family; courage, diligence, and pragmatism. However, we need to realize that he is the only figure who has compassion and real understanding of people. For example, he understands Darl's actions, Anse's slow moving ways (259), Vernon's possessiveness of his mules, and Jewels' hard work at night to buy his horse. The makeup of Cash's personality and person give him the ability to head his family. It is Cash who is the motor that gets things done in the novel. It is as if the family is in a centrifuge and Cash creates the gravity that glues the group together. Cash, not Anse, is the true patriarch and leader of the family.
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