Most authors give small details throughout the novel of where and when a story takes place, and the reader must piece the bits together. As I lay dying is no exception and like any other book gives many examples of setting. First off you can tell that the story takes place many years ago through simple statements given throughout the novel. For example, when it says that all of the women inside of the house had to use fans to cool themselves it suggests that air conditioning was not around yet, therefore it was an earlier time. (Page 81) Also throughout the entire beginning of the novel Cash’s only tools for building Addie’s coffin are a saw and hammer, there is no mention of any newer power tools. Then when Anse is talking to some of the other men about transporting Addie’s coffin a character mentions that the bridge was built back when his first child was born in 1988. (83) Also on page 83 when the flooding of said bridge is noted someone comments on how they had to float their horses across the water to get to Anse’s house. This shows that the novel took place many years ago in the late 1800’s when people relied on horses to get around.
Also whenever anyone mentions transportation they talk about their wagons aka: They travel in wagons because cars do not exist yet. The final piece of evidence which shows the story took place some time back is when Cash is finally finishing Addie’s coffin at night in the pouring rain and he has to use a lantern to see in the dark. (Page 57) It shows that this novel took place before flashlights were around because Cash had to give up his raincoat to keep the lantern dry and lit whereas if this had taken place at a more current time he would have used a flashlight and kept himself dry. The time frame which this story takes place stays consist but the place changes as the novel progresses. In the beginning we learn that the Bundruns house sits alone right in front of a road (page 35) Then later when doctor Peabody comes to visit we learn that they live atop a mountain (page 41) Another thing noted is that the Bundruns own a good amount of property for their limited funds and they own their own barn house as well. (Page 38).
Later the story takes place on the road as the Bundruns make their way towards Jefferson. One of the many examples of this is on page 156 when Anse mentions the slippery dirt road and the difficulties it might pose for the remainder of their travel. Journal 2 and 3: mother is a fish tools=cash Addie=coffin Anse unable to smooth blankets page 51 jewl’s mother is a horse and is what was 95 The fish plays a symbolic role in helping Vardaman understand death. “It was not her because it was laying right yonder in the dirt. And now it’s all chopped up. I chopped it up. It’s laying in the kitchen in the bleeding pan, waiting to be cooked and ate. Then it wasn’t and she was, and now it is and she wasn’t” (66-67). This was Vardaman’s childlike explanation for his mother’s death.
This quote conveys how the fish was a fish lying in the dirt, now it is no longer a fish because it no longer has a body. Similarly when Addie is laid to rest in her coffin her body will be no more. By his mother dying if “Cash nails the box up”, his mother will no longer be his mother (66).Addie “was” a fish rather than “is” a fish. The fish symbolizes Addie’s death to Vardaman in a sense that physical being conveys existence. Throughout the beginning sections of the novel, Cash has always been described as sawing or hammering. The tools eventually start to represent Cash himself. In fact before anyone even see’s Cash the sawing and the hammering of his tools are heard first. Cash is very stable and persistent just like his tools. While Cash was constructing the coffin with his tools even when it began to rain, Cash continued to work. “Cash works on…dynamic immobility above his tireless elbow…It begins to rain…in an instant Cash is wet to the skin. Yet the motion of the saw has not faltered, as though it and the arm functioned in tranquil conviction that the rain was an illusion of the mind” (77).
By having the saw not falter, Cash’s steady, stable character is portrayed He is the level headed and most sane of all of the Bundruns. The tools themselves represented Cash’s true identity. If the tools were lost or not beside him he felt lost. When he’s not safely with his tools he loses his sanity. New teeth symbolize Anse’s selfishness. Even while everyone is gathered around his wife’s death bed, he can only think about getting ahold of new teeth.” God’s will be done,” he says, “Now I can get them teeth” (52). Anse displays selfishness by his bluntness. He simply states what’s done is done and then focuses on himself. He is constantly putting the needs, and desires of his children aside and focusing on his own wants. Even Dewy Dells abortion is second to him. Anse’s only life goal/motive throughout the novel is to get a pair of new teeth, even his goal to bury his own wife where he promised comes in second to getting his new teeth. He only wishes to bury Addie in Jefferson out of his own selfish reasons.
The teeth represent his selfishness because at any time when everyone else is worried about Addie, he is not; he is off thinking about new teeth. He does not even come across remotely upset at losing his wife instead he fantasizes about teeth. Jewel’s relationship with his horse represents his relationship with his mother. Darl makes fun of Jewel and says his mother is a horse, suggesting that what Jewel feels for the horse is what he feels for his mother.(page 51) Jewel does act violently toward his horse, but it should be noted that Jewl’s character is one of violence. Jewel was born as the result of violence because of what Addie wanted from preacher Whitfield. Jewel’s monologues show the violent images in his mind. He has a stronger personality than any of the other Bundruns and people seem to fear him.
He even expresses his love for Addie through Violence when He stands on high hill and throws rocks at people down below. It is also important to remember that it is Jewel who violently and single-handedly saves Addie from the river and the fire.(page 203) These acts show his love for his mother. Even though at times it is hard to believe he ever had love for his mother, like when he refuses to say goodbye to her when he knows it is the last time her will ever see her. He simply can’t express his emotions except in symbols of violence, and the intense loving; violent relationship with the horse is what provides insight into his character.
Therefore his horse symbolizes the love he has for his mother and suggests the violent circumstances of his birth. Addie’s coffin comes to represent the family’s dysfunction. Cash is obsessed with getting the measurements right, yet the coffin remains unbalanced. Likewise all of the Bundruns themselves are unbalanced. Addie wants a coffin sturdy enough to insure her body gets to Jefferson, the city she has demanded she be buried in. Addie’s demand is selfish and she does not care for how much trouble it will cause her family. Cash breaks his leg when he goes after the coffin in the river and suffers untold pain.
The youngest child Vardaman drills holes into the coffin accidentally drilling two holes into his mother’s face because he thinks she can’t breathe. (page 71) After eight days, the odor emanating from the coffin is putrid. It is almost as if the coffin is a jinx.(page 239) The coffin begins to symbolize the family’s dysfunction because all of the unlucky and tragic things that occur to the Bundruns surround the coffin. Burying the coffin symbolizes the return to normalcy. Although the Bundruns version normalcy is sending Darl off to a mental institution and finding a new Mrs. Bundren.
One important and symbolic event is when Addie was nearing her death and Anse is unable to smooth the blankets over her on page 51. This shows just how much their marriage had collapsed and how little they cared for each other. Anse has no true love for his wife in his heart, therefore caring acts such as smoothing her blankets while she is on her deathbed do not come naturally to him. Addie has no love for Anse either and she only glares at Anse as he attempts to smooth her blankets. She does not want his touch or him in the room even. Also in this scene when Addie finally passes Dewey Dell reacts emotionally and throws herself on her mother and Vardiman and Cash both react with some sadness as well. While Anse’s thoughts still seem to be stuck on teeth, he does not even comment further on his wife’s death he only tells Dewey Dell to go along and make supper and goes to once again awkwardly cover Addie with a blanket and try to smooth it.
Journal 4: figurative language
William Faulkner has a different writing style than most other authors, even his use of figurative language is one of his own. Something that stands out about his use of figurative language is that nine times out of ten he uses it to describe nature. For example, Faulkner uses a simile to show that an entire day has passed in only 1 ½ pages. He uses the position of the sun to show that it is already evening. “The sun, an hour above the horizon, is poised like a bloody egg upon a crest of thunderheads.” (page 39) Another thing one might notice about Faulkner’s technique is that he tends to compare people, objects, or characteristics with animals. One example of this is when Faulkner compares Anse to a rooster. “His hair was pushed back and matted up on his head like a dipped rooster”. (pg. 43) This was when Addie was very near to death and many neighbors were visiting her on her deathbed.
Anse is outside on the porch standing alone, and zoned out in his own world. Faulkner uses this simile to show just how much Addie’s sickness/almost death has affected Anse. The reader gets the image of just how much stress Anse has been put under. (Although his anxiousness probably has a little more to do with getting new teeth than Addie) Another simile in As I Lay Dying is when the women’s chatting coming from inside the house is compared to the buzzing of bees. “The women’s talking was buzzing like bees in a bucket from inside the house.” (pg. 81) The author is comparing the women’s talking to bee’s to show how much more frantically and quickly they are chatting and gossiping as opposed to the men’s calmer, slower, and more series conversation. Journal 8: In its broadest terms, the structure of As I Lay Dying revolves around the preparations for and the actual journey from the Bundren farm to a town forty miles away in order to bury Addie Bundren.
Also, like most novels during the journey, several conflicts arise and the Bundruns must solve through them. So, in one sense, the novel has a linear structure based upon their traveling 40 miles from their mountain home to Jefferson to fulfill Addie’s dying wish, but the novel is also structured in such a way that the author has virtually removed himself from the story and it is the characters telling the story. There are exactly fifty-nine chapters in the novel and each is narrated by a character Faulkner accomplishes many things through his unique use of structure. For one thing he forces the reader to submerge themselves in the story. Because he has removed himself as a narrator there is no one straight point of view to explain events or ideas and the reader has to compare the different opinions and differing viewpoints from all of the characters and determine for themselves the significance of a particular event.
Another thing different about his technique is that it allows us to see the inner thoughts of ALL the characters rather than just one main characters. We see into the mind of each character directly and must analyze what we find there. He does not give any background information on any of his characters; instead the reader must examine characters inner thoughts and on their own determine what type of characters they are. Along with this we are able to see each event from many different perspectives. With multiple narrations the reader can see each event from all of the differing viewpoints and observe how each character saw it and their own opinion on it. Because of this ,we learn more about the character.
His unique style lets the reader become a part of the novel by drawing them in more and forcing them to piece together their own idea of what each characters personality is like. Another interesting thing about Faulkner’s style is that he is careful to include outside narrators to remind the reader that the Bundruns are not typical people. For example, all of the other characters find it absurd that Anse is going to drag his wife’s dead body such a long distance and they find it disrespectful to her spirit for him not to bury her as soon and as conveniently as possible.
If the story were confined to only the Bundruns points of view, the reader would not realize that this dead body stinks so badly and that the Bundruns are violating basic morals by transporting the body such a long distance. The outside narrators give the novel a sense of the real world. In conclusion the book does have a central problem involving Addie’s request to be buried and her family determination to fulfill it, and then the structure of the novel forces the reader to solve these problems for themselves by analyzing each character. Journal 9 and 10: key passages
“He did not know that he was dead.” (P. 173)
After Addie gave birth to Cash, she closed herself off to Anse. To Addie, her husband Anse was dead. This is apparent even in the beginning of the novel because one can sense the barrier between Addie and Anse. Addie has no interest in anything Anse says and does not even wish to see him in her final hours. Anse on the other hand does not even care about his wife’s death because he is preoccupied with getting new teeth. After Addie gave birth to Cash she starts to feel like Anse has taken her identity away from her, and that now she cannot be her own person because she is forced to be part of a family. She resents Anse for this. She also resents the attachment of being part of a family. This is why she feels like her “aloneness has been violated.” This is also the reason for Addie’s affair with Whitfield – to rebel against her role in the family.
It is her own personal revenge against Anse. The product was Jewel. She then begins to share a special connection with Jewl. Darl and Cash belonged to Anse and she never really wanted them. Having them in the first place was really just about her duty as a wife. But Anse isn’t Jewel’s father; therefore, Jewel is Addie’s and only Addie’s. To her, Jewl is living proof that she was able to break out of her position as the wife and act as an independent person. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.
Page 248 This is said from Cash’s point of view, and is his opinion on whether or not Darl is Insane. Cash starts to contemplate what IS sanity exactly? Who is to determine what is and isn’t sane, what if what others might consider insanity is really just Darl’s refusal to conform to the social norms? When you consider all of the misery the Bundruns mission to bury Addie has created from beginning to end you may start to think that maybe Darl is not insane. The entire bunch of the Bundruns were crazy, abnormal and could in someone else’s opinion be considered insane.
Jewl is unnecessarily violent, Dewy Dell is a whore, Anse is incredibly selfish, and even little Vardamin is out of sorts. Cash notes that maybe Darl is the only one declared insane because the rest of his family’s opinions outnumber his. This goes all the way back to the very beginning of the family’s dysfunctions starting with when Anse’s marriage with Addie fell apart and then Addie’s health failed. Throughout the entire book the Bundruns seem to have trouble getting along until finally the coffin is buried and they seem to return to their version of normal. Journals 5 and 6
One of the most obvious rhetoric techniques Faulkner uses is his writing style. It is written as a stream of consciousness, and it is so skillfully done that it adds depth to the novel. As I lay dying is told from multiple perspectives, and each chapter is narrated by a different character. Faulkner’s virtuosity is seen by the way he adjusts his style to fit the mind of each individual narrator. The reader is given more detail for each event because they are able to view the event from multiple perspectives. Faulkner has very skillfully imitated the way the human brain processes images and puts them into words. The reader is really placed inside the various characters’ heads. This rhetoric technique lets the reader experience the book as if they are omnisciently viewing the events themselves. Faulkner uses a lot of repetition in As I Lay dying to get certain points across.
Courtney from Study Moose
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