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As I Lay Dying; Analysis

As I Lay Dying; Essay

A major theme from the novel “As I Lay Dying” is that of family, loyalty, love and the author, William Faulkner, brings together characters each with different ideas and passions in life to teach the reader or the audience that despite the many differences and struggles we may have as individuals, the idea of family should arouse a sense of loyalty in all of us, young or old, “crazy” or “normal”, sister or half brother, even a friend. In the following series of essays, we shall see how the members of the Bundren Family and the neighbors or those people who are close to them are loyal despite their major grudges or differences

From the narration of Adie, the central character of this novel, we are able to see that she is not a woman one would call happy and celebratory in life, but rather she is a soul on the edge. As a teacher, she “draws blood”/ whips her students as a mode of consoling her hatred of life and as a way of becoming part of the kids’ life, so she says. We are also able to see that Adie “took” Anse, not because she loved him and we witness that even in this marriage she isn’t satisfied let alone feel any special attachment to her family. Faulkner teaches us that despite her disinterest in Anse and after the “holly fight” with Whitfield that produced Jewell, Adie is loyal to the family, in particular to Anse by giving him three children as a consolation and perhaps as a way of replacing her love. It might not be the best way canceling an infidelity, but who is to say what is “right”; Adie at least has a sense of remorse and feels that the proper way of showing loyalty to Anse is to give him “his” three children.

Faulkner gives the character of Anse a timid or anxious personality. Repeatedly, Anse calls himself the most luckless man that ever lived and he is a man without hope. What irritates me and angers me, as part of the audience is that he is selfish, greedy and just completely stubborn. Numerous times Anse is offered help but he childishly and stubbornly refuses by saying “I don’t want to be beholden to none.” His selfishness is seen when he tries to trade Jewel’s beloved horse, when he uses Cash’s money, and most base/carnal of all is when he says “now I can get them teeth” when Adie is dead. He also uses reverse psychology on Dewey Dell when he tries to convince her that since he sacrificed for them kids, it’s their responsibility to sacrifice for him now. One of Anse’s weaknesses is that he is helpless; on more than one occasion, the family friends say that they have given Anse a lot of help that it would be impossible not to help him now. The best he can do to help is to sit and rub his knees. It is ironic that I find Anse’s stubbornness as a wedge to show his loyalty. When Adie had Darl, she devised a revenge plan and made Anse promise that he will bury her in Jefferson when she dies. Even with the stench of the dead body provokes insult from people and forces the townspeople to convince Anse to bury Adie somewhere else, it is Anse’s stubbornness that proves his loyalty to the promise pact he made. Although he acts like he could careless about anybody but himself, Faulkner gives Anse his much used phrases “she’ll want it so” and “I give her my promise” “her mind was set on it” to show that as part of loyalty, we need to overcome the outside critics that my force us to fail to fulfill our promises; and that of Anse was to bury Adie in Jefferson despite all the critics and threats of being punished by the law for carrying a corpse.

We can go on and on with the citations of the loyalty in this novel; Cash shows his loyalty and love for Adie by making a coffin for her, Jewel is loyal to her mother and for her love by being Adie’s savior from the fire and the water, Darl, despite his craziness seems to love Cash when he constantly convinces him to go see a doctor when he brakes his leg again, Darl is also loyal in that as much as he reads peoples minds, he never tells another soul about it. All being said, it is the desires to meet personal goals and hardships that the characters endure on the way to Jefferson that prove their deepest loyalty to family. Despite their differences, all characters work together and collectively for a common goal, to take Adie to Jefferson as promised; Cash could have chose to stay at the hospital with the broken leg but he chose to finish the journey first, Darl holds back a lot of information that could have disrupted the whole family focus for example Dewey-Dell’s pregnancy, Jewel doesn’t let his anger towards Anse for wanting to trade away his horse turn him away from his family, Dewey Dell decides to let Anse take her money meant for the abortion, and even little Vardaman doesn’t let his obsession for the bananas encompass him so as to forget the main reason of the journey to Jefferson. Even the friends they meet on the road and the townspeople show their loyalty by offering help to the traveling Bundren family. All this is proof that William Faulkner intends for the readers to understand that even though we might hold grudges against each other or even have differing motives or plans; all must be put aside in the name of loyalty so as to accomplish a journey.

As I Lay Dying; Analysis

Isaiah  Kakule

Joined February 2008

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