Essay on Addie Bundren in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

Essay on Addie Bundren in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

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Addie Bundren in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

Woman is the source and sustainer of virtue and also a prime

source of evil. She can be either; because she is, as man is not,

always a little beyond good and evil. With her powerful natural

drive and her instinct for the concrete and personal, she does not

need to agonize over her decisions. There is no code for her to

master, no initiation for her to undergo. For this reason she has

access to a wisdom which is veiled from man; and man’s codes,

good or bad, are always, in their formal abstraction, a little absurd

in her eyes . . . 1

In William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” all roads lead to Addie. As Diane

York Blaine aptly observes: “The title informs us that this is her story.”2 It

is very surprising, then, that Addie, the center of the novel, was so slighted

by the lack of criticism regarding her from the first half of the century. The

reason for this is self-reflexively connected to Addie’s dilemma in the book.

Just as Addie is unable to define herself through anything but words that represent

the oppressive patriarchal society to which she is opposed, early criticism

only evaluated her in these terms, focusing less on Addie’s first person

narrative, and more on what other characters in the novel (the men) had to

say about her. However, the changing social and political tides of the 1960’s

and 1970’s gave rise to feminist criticism, which was at least partially able to

break out of the patriarchal infrastructure, and evaluate her under a new set

of values, giving new insight into her character, and thus, to the novel as a


There is a conspicuous lack of early criticism regarding Addi...

... middle of paper ...

...(Beyond) Sexual

Difference (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press) 1990, p. 154.

Trinity Papers '02-'03 7/24/02 12:40 PM Page 87

88 Alice Affleck

25 Diana York Blaine, “The Abjection of Addie and Other Myths” Mississippi

Quarterly, vol.47, Summer 1994, p. 403.

26 Mark Hewson, “’My children were of me alone’: Maternal Influence in

Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying”, Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 53, Fall 2000, p.


27 Doreen Fowler, “Matricide and the Mother’s Revenge” The Faulkner

Journal 4: (1-2), Fall 1988-Spring 1989, p. 113.

28 Jill Bergman “’This was the answer to it’: Sexuality and Maternity in As I

Lay Dying” Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 49, i. 3, Summer 1996, p. 393.

29 Mark Hewson, “’My children were of me alone’: Maternal Influence in As

I Lay Dying” Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 53, Fall 2000, p. 551.

30 Ibid, p. 553.

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