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 ...
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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