How Death Is Portrayed In William Faulkner's Novel As I Lay Dying
The story “As I Lay Dying” is about a mother that is very ill and eventually she will pass away. Addie would like to be buried in a certain location, which would be Jefferson. When she passes Cash has been making a coffin for the mother to lie in for the trip. Along the way they will encounter multiple obstacles that are going to make the trip difficult. During this journey there are many examples that show us how death is portrayed in the story.
Death illustrates many symbols in the story As I Lay Dying. “Her silence belies other kinds of power that haunt family members from beyond the grave” (Gault 442). Addie Bundren tests her family members from beyond the grave. At the birth of the story everyone has the aspect of the family being so close and loving, but in reality it reality the journey Addie puts them through will put them apart. A problem of this would be because of how everyone copes with Addies death.
Every family member takes on Addies death in their own unique way. The family really doesn’t have an affiliation with one another. Her death honestly doesn’t bring the family together. They really don’t cope over this death together. This journey to bury Addie brings either positive or tragic closure. “Addie and include her perspective, the circling back to her is motivated by her frightening maternal power as a corpse” ( Gault 442). Even though Addie has passed she still is the root of the source on why some of the closure occurs. Addies last dying wish was to be buried in Jefferson. This request makes the journey very problematic.
Everyone has their own dilema to death with when Addie passes away. For example Anes would like to obtain some new teeth. He wants them because new teeth produces more comfort. He seems to be very nonchalant about his wife dying. Now that she’s gone he is really trying to pay attention to his new teeth and finding a new wife. “In all instances Addie’s positive identity as a mother to and role model for her children is denied” (Hewson 552). He really doesn’t show that he is worried about her death, but he is also known as a deadbeat or someone who complains about hard work constantly.
Now Dewey Dell also had a reason to head back into town. She would like to get an abortion. The only place she would be able to get an abortion would be in town. In her mind her brain is so wrapped around all of her problems her mother’s death really isn’t her priority at the moment. Now she is getting desperate really the most desperate in the stody. She thinks time is running against her at this moment. This trip now gives her a opportunity to go into town. Really Anes gets what he went in town but Dewey didn’t because she didn’t think it was going to work.
Cash is the oldest sibling and truly cares about his mother’s death. Him and his younger brother Vardaman have very different views on the death. The age is probably a big part of the reason why. Cash seems to be the most calm and reliable in the family. Cash has a broken leg but still shows that he is hard working by building Addies coffin. He seems like it’s not affecting him much either because he seems fine just nailing Addies coffin together. It most likely hasn’t hit him yet that his mother passed away because he could be distracted by the pain of his leg.
Now Vardaman may have been the youngest out of the Bundren family but he takes his mother’s death. While Cash is acting more mature about the situation his younger brother has more of a childish perspective. “Her importance has centered around her identity as a mother” (Hewson 551). Vardaman has recently caught a fish and somehow connects that fish to his mother’s passing. “Vardaman’s concretely assertive and reality-conjuring linguistic performance is radically opposed to his older brothers” (Delville 64). Vardaman comes off as in denial because his mother passed which kind of shows why he would have the fantasy about his mom basically representing a fish. He is mostly ignored by his family so it’s definitely okay for this fantasy mindset to be in play. He needed a way to cope with what was going on instead of trying to face reality of the situation by himself.
While Darl did try and comfort Vardaman he is really grieving about Addie. Between the family members Darl and Jewel are really the only people who show emotion about her death in the story. Darl really didn’t get his mothers love, all the attention went to Jewel. “Her silence belies other kinds of power that haunt family members from beyond the grave” (Gault 442). He thinks he deserved it, because of this it results in a grudge between Darl and Jewel. Really Jewel was Addies favorite and not Darl. Even though she has passed she still makes people have these emotions.
When Addie was on her death bed she sent Darl out to do some work for Tull. Now that he will be out he will be missing out on his mother passing, which is why he took Jewel out on the trip. He wanted to make sure they both missed out on her passing. “ Her legacy is greater than expected because of the trouble she manages to cause the living” (Gault 442). This is why Darl is basically jealous of Jewel.
While they are on the trip Darl constantly and consistently taunts Jewel. He brings about about his mother’s death like do you know she’s dying or she’s going to die. “I make the case that Faulkner’s corpse metaphor emphasizes physical constraints” ( Gault 440). He talked it up so much now these buzzards are flying above them on the trip. Jewel, much less articulate and emotionally wooden, internalizes all of his pain, which causes him to lash out at anyone.
Jewel also resents his brother, for he was denied a goodbye to his mother, because of Darl’s actions. It would perhaps be not too far to say that he comes to hate Darl. Shortly after Addie’s death, Darl describes Jewel looking at him “his face suffused with fury and despair”. Jewel cares about his mother in the same incommunicable way that he cares about his horse. Don’t forget he remembers his mom like a horse just how Vardaman thinks his mom is a fish. . After she dies, he finds it difficult to cope. He seems to be the black sheep of the family, and his isolation from the rest of the characters only makes him more brooding and resentful.
Addies actions surrounding the birth of each child are reflected in his behavior throughout the novel. Faulkner’s purpose was to show how the Bundrens are unable to establish satisfactory relationships within the family. Addie Bundren is egocentric. She is interested more in forcing an awareness of herself on others than she is in caring for the needs of her children. But Addie possesses strength to force her violence upon the lives of her children.
Though near the end when he protects Addie’s coffin from the fire Darl starts. Soon after this, Jewel insults a stranger, but eventually takes it back. This shows that there is hope for him yet. But just when Jewel starts to come to his senses, Darl loses his. Despite Darl always having the family’s best interests in mind, except for Jewel. he is eventually sent off to probably a jail house or asylum. This could be seen as an even further tearing apart of an already extremely dysfunctional family.
Darl was born unwanted and at a time when Addie came to the realization that she had been tricked by words. Darl has Addie’s awareness of the complexities of life, but as the rejected son, he rejects Addie’s twisted and horrible way of violence and destruction. Using his awareness, however, he seeks to achieve a sympathy and understanding with the family. This all ends up being a reason why he would land himself into the hospital or where he went.
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