Home » William Faulkner’s novel “As I lay Dying”

William Faulkner’s novel “As I lay Dying”

In William Faulkner’s novel “As I lay Dying” the reader learns about each character through the eyes of that person so to speak. Most of the important characters minds are revealed through the unique personalities and idiosyncrasies of the Bundren family, and those they encountered. One of the characters is Addie Bundren, the matriarch of the clan, and the person who’s death this story moves upon. Although Addie is dead for most of the book, Faulkner still shows Addie’s feelings and attitude in a chapter in which she seemingly speaks from the dead.

From this scene we learn about Addie’s personality. As a whole Addie is a pessimistic and unfulfilled woman, who marries the ignorant Anse Bundren on a whim. Addie also admits for caring for only two of her children, the rest she labels “Anse’s children”, who are born out of an obligation. This obligation to Anse spawned from the fact that she had a son borne out of an affair with the priest Whitfield to bear her second child Jewel. As stated before Addie is a bitter woman and believes Anse is to blame for many of her shortcomings.

These shortcomings started namely with her unwanted birth to her second child Darl. Because of Addie’s bitter anger toward Anse, she curses Anse with her revenge, after death. Her revenge involved telling Anse to take her body back to her hometown of Jefferson, which is a very long trip to make with a rotting dead body. Addie realizes that this will be an undignified, dangerous, and tedious consuming trip. Since Addie will be dead and gone her instinctive safeguard in this plan is “her” son Jewel who she prophesied would save her from the “fire and the water” and make sure she got to Jefferson.

With Addie’s plan in motion and her safeguard in place, I believe Addie still could not punish the infantile but slick Anse Bundren despite Jewel’s instinctive effort, because of Anse’s hidden intelligence and improvisational skills. Anse Bundren seemingly the most country bumpkin you could ever meet has at least one thing going for him. That is that he innocently knows how to play with people’s perceptions of him. When we see Anse for the first time it is explained to us that he does not work because he got sick once. This portrayal of Anse is of a sickly man who culls people’s sympathy.

In another varying instance, on his way to Jefferson, Anse portrays a simple father carrying out his dead wife’s last wish and single-handedly taking care of his unruly kids. This totally varying portrayal still garnishes the same sub- conscious feelings of sympathy from others that don’t know Anse. This ability of Anse helps combat an aspect of Addie’s plan. This aspect of the plan was that Addie would make Anse suffer through the indignity of carrying around her dead stinking carcass. A good example is when the family is well on their way to Jefferson and stop in the city of Mottson.

While stopping in the middle of the street they were told to leave because of the smelling rotting carcass by the Marshal of the town. In this scene it seems as if Addie’s plan is working to perfection as everyone looks at Anse as country fool from Yoknapatawpha county until; Anse starts to weave his sad tear-jerking tale of the family’s tragic trip to carry out his dead wife’s last wish. While the story is being told, one gets the feeling the Marshal, and the storyteller, Albert, have totally soaked up Anse’s story and were totally immersed it’s content.

That is until Jewel comes and in and, true to his role as the protector of Addie’s revenge, tells Anse to “shut up”. Even though Anse is stopped in mid-flow by Jewel, the Marshal definitely loses his edge in expelling the Bundren clan. This certainly shows how Anse overcomes the indignity of the burden of Addie, by lulling the marshal to sleep with his tale. Another aspect of Addie’s revenge was the fact that this trip was so time-consuming. This would definitely make Anse do some work. “The shirt across pa’s hump is faded lighter than the rest of it. There is no sweat stain on his shirt. I have never seen a sweat stain on his shirt.

He was sick once from working in the sun when he was twenty-two years old and he tells people that if he ever sweats, he will die. I suppose he believes it. -Darl This quote totally shows Anse in his element, lying or embellishing a bit, so he can get out of work. As it said he has not worked a hard day since he was twenty-two. This is definitely a reason people like Addie and Cora hate him. As he sits in his rickety chair in the shade ( out of the suns harmful rays ) everyone else works and he sits there probably getting fat on his own saliva, barking orders when he deems them necessary, and naturally many people resent him for this.

Addie, who resents him the most, has worked all of her life and is most sad when she works hard as it is but still can’t provide for Jewel’s saddle. She is the opposite of Anse who would rather accept things with a Cavalier attitude or make sure it takes no sweat off his back to achieve something . Addie makes it an aspect of her revenge to make Anse work to get her in the ground . To finally make him sweat figuratively and physically. By Anse hating to work, making him do it would be fundamental in making him suffer, which is Addie’s plight.

In Anse’s attempt to thwart the revenge of the dead lady, he uses an especially interesting and unique way of getting out of Addie’s work detail. Throughout the trip to Jefferson Anse berates any person in his family who says something slightly ill about Addie. Anse can be seen with such quips as ” It just ain’t right” or “it’s little enough to do for her” and who could forget the repeated ” it’s a deliberate floutin’ of her and me” In short Anse is saying no one cares about his dear Addie except poor old him.

The funny thing is even though he says this, and it would seem like the noble thing to do in helping share the work, Anse has already set himself up to be a concerned spectator in the peanut gallery with Vardaman and Dewey Dell !. He can do this with out catching any static because shucks, “he ain’t worked in many a’ year”, In other words this is perfectly set up by Anse’s lazier than sin lifestyle. No one expects Anse to exert any energy since he hasn’t for twenty or thirty years. Therefore Anse gets away from his “Ole lady” again by letting his brave son’s do all the work.

And for Jewel to risk his life twice in the water and the fire, while Anse whistle’s his approval from the cheap seats. On the subject of danger, this is one of the biggest challenges Addie can give Anse in her revenge. But this is where I think Anse had his biggest victory. It is not really totally explained whether or not Addie cares whether or not anything happens to Darl, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. since they are not truly “hers”. The only thing that is evident she is especially fond of Cash and Jewel.

The reason I say she is fond of her two sons is because she said herself that love is just a “word” and at some point it loses it’s use . This means since it is not a feeling but rather a word that is obsolete after the time comes when she does not need to use it anymore. This time for Addie is when she is dead and is attempting to have her revenge on Anse. Addie is so passionate about this that her “love” for Jewel and Cash has passed it’s time, and they are now pawns in her plan to make Anse suffer. When she discusses her revenge on Anse.

She never once realizes or acknowledges the fact that Jewel could get hurt while being her “savior”. Maybe instead of using “savior’ she should have used “martyr”, because Jewel was sacrificed in certain situations. All this just to get back at Anse. This makes the fact true that Addie will go to all lengths of danger to take Anse out. If there is a possibility that Anse could be injured or hurt during this trip, then all is fair game to Addie, even if it means cutting the lives of the only beings she professes to love in Jewel and Cash.

Throughout the trip to Jefferson there were many hardships and dangers for the Bundren Family, the most important being the river incident, and the other being the burning barn incident. To show how much Addie’s plan fizzled in these dangerous situations, is to know that the only way Anse could have gotten hurt in these dire instances is if he lost his voice from cheering from the women and children’s section. Anse could do this once again because of the situation he was able to weasel himself into.

Once again everyone knows how old Anse is, how he can’t sweat, and how he is therefore incapable of being heroic and possibly getting hurt. And the way I believe Anse got total victory over the late Mrs. Bundren is because he was able to stay safe because of his excuses, while the son’s she loved in Jewel and Cash received the most pain in trying to uphold her plot. So even though Addie professes she doesn’t care, I get the feeling that if she hadn’t died before, the thought of her sons being injured and Anse escaping with new teeth, a new wife, and a new gramophone certainly would have killed her.

In conclusion in spite of the fact that Anse is Slow, Lazy, Dishonerable, Hypocritical and much more, he is not stupid, this is probably the common misconception. He is all of the above except stupid. Anse has proved that he is a bastard unto the world but not dumb. This is why I believe that Addie Bundren was not able to achieve her revenge against Anse despite Jewel’s best efforts. Because of Anse’s ability to manipulate people into believing he was something he was not, he was able to not only avoid Addie’s revenge but was also able to accomplish his goals in the process.

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