In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, references to “the right” by numerous characters serve to propel the reader on a quest for truth. Cora and Tull make allusions to what is right as defined by religion, while Cash evokes a more innate sense of right and wrong. Anse has a sense of right that is deceptive to both himself and others, yet it also conveys his view of the world which Faulkner shows to be just as accurate as anyone else’s. Faulkner’s blending of these versions of right make a unified idea of what is right, even if that idea is at once a confusing and complicated one.
Cora and Vernon Tull believe completely in the absolute power of God and that His will is ultimately what will be done. Cora is Vernon’s source of strength and faith, and even when he waivers in what he believes to be right, he ultimately sides with his wife. Cora is constantly exclaiming both in speech and in song that “I trust in my God and my reward. ” (70) This belief is a great comfort to Cora. Even when she makes cakes for a wealthy woman in town and the woman changes her mind, Cora only thinks “Riches is nothing in the face of the Lord, for He can see into the heart. 7) Cora also believed it right for people to suffer; seeing it as their “mortal lot” (159).
However, this deep faith is also blinding to Cora. Cora is blind to the fact that Addie has an understanding of sin and salvation and “right” beyond the mere words that she uses. Cora mistakes Addie’s lack of faith for vanity and pride, and gets down on her knees in hopes of rescuing her from the clutches of damnation (160). Addie’s response to this is that “people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too. 168) Vernon Tull at times questions whether his wife is altogether right, but then catches himself and pulls himself back. Cora may have seen it as people’s mortal lot to suffer, but Vernon questioned this, especially in the case of Vardaman’s pain. Vernon says, “It aint right. I be durn if it is. Because He said Suffer little children to come onto Me dont make it right, neither. ” (70) However, Vernon soon catches himself, echoing his earlier references of too much thinking being detrimental to people.
He reasons that “For the Lord aimed for him to do and not to spend too much time thinking… ” (68) Vernon Tull “generally prefers to remain unconcious” and insists “that the best is not to tax one’s brain as Darl does… ” (Rossky 181) Ultimately, Vernon doesn’t want to think too much of what is right or not right, and simply embraces Cora’s beliefs. While the Tulls beliefs are grounded in religion, Cash’s idea of the right is based more on innate reason.
Cash believes right to be taking pride in human creations and always doing the best possible job (Bedient 206). Cash reflected on his making of his mother’s coffin on the bevel to summarize his belief of right. He believed in making things “always like it was for your own use and comfort… ” (224) Beldient writes, “Why is this teaching ‘right’? Because a man defines himself, not by what he builds, but by the way he builds it… ” (107) Cash questions his ideas of right when he is forced to weigh the righness of Darl’s burning of the barn.