As I Lay Dying
Obscenity And Family Relationships In Faulkner’s Novel “As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying presents an aggressive view of an unusual family. The Bundren family’s mother figure, Addie, dies. While transporting her body to Jackson for burial, the remaining six family members struggle to make it alive, uninjured, and in time so that the corpse stops rotting and smelling. Jewel, one of the elder brothers, remains the most determined and attached to their mother throughout their odyssey. However, he vocally and violently confronts those involved in transporting his mother in any way, including his family. During the journey, Jewel’s usage of the aggressive phrase “son of a bitch” illustrates the reverse ideas of familial relationships in the Bundren family as well as an inability to differentiate between animals and humans.
Jewel’s primary use for swearing is to refer to members of his family. When lifting the coffin, he refers to Cash as a “goddamn…think-nosed soul”, calling him “son of a bitch” while they try to keep it balanced (96). At the same time, Darl taunts Jewel when they go to get supplies to bring Addie to Jefferson. He retaliates through swearing as well (40). Jewel never uses this term for any other family members, leaving it for Cash and Darl. “Bitch,” by technical definition, is a female dog. Animals and their images present themselves throughout the book, with dogs appearing at all times. Jewel himself “looked like one of these bulldogs, one of these dogs that don’t bark none” (235). Using this, if Cash and Darl are “sons of bitches,” then they are no different from animals, just as Jewel is. They are all merely puppies in a litter, young animals who cannot control themselves in an appropriate manner. This shows that if they are no different from animals, then the older Bundren brothers have no need to act like humans. In doing so, they do not have to follow human or societal ideology, but can create and follow their own, explaining the weird behaviors of the three: Darl’s ability to just “know” things, Jewel’s stoic and “wooden behavior”, and Cash’s illogical logic.
However, Addie is clearly their mother by genetics. Since they are self-consciously construed as “sons of a bitch,” that “bitch” is Addie. Addie is only a female dog, further blurring the line between animal and human in the Bundrens’ minds. Vardaman’s “mother is a fish” (84), while “‘Jewel’s mother is a horse’” despite being the same person (101). They are not able to differentiate between the variations in thinking and perception, but make it clear that because they are all related. Then, there is no way the siblings cannot be dogs themselves. Despite despising one another, they are all the same at a genetic and very primal level. Consequently, the line blurs between animal and human, continuing to make the humans animalistic while the animals remain themselves or more humanoid. In this way, the dogs as a pack are a family with a distinct pecking order. The leader of the family casts them out or to the bottom if they do not obey, like Jewel, or they must follow Anse’s rules. Even though he is useless, he rules the Bundren “pack”. Addie herself is also a bitch in the insulting sense of the term. She had Jewel, who isn’t Anse’s child, just to spite her husband. Jewel is her “jewel”, making Jewel specifically her “son of a bitch.” The negative term is a positive enforcement for all of them, building the family relations and showing how they connect and relate in an animalistic, pack-like way.
But, the only ones referred to as “sons of bitches” are the older males in the Bundren family. Dewey Dell and Vardaman are not referred to or cussed out using “son of a bitch”. This is because neither of those children are Addie’s, in a belonging sense of the term. Addie “gave Anse Dewey Dell to negative Jewel” (176).Dewey Dell is not Addie’s, because she gave her to Anse as replacement for her own personal child, her son. Vardaman isn’t hers either, because while Dewey cancelled out Jewel, Addie “gave [Anse] Vardaman to replace the child [she] had robbed him of” (176). In doing so, they are not her sons, because Dewey is female, and because Addie gives Anse both of them. Addie does not actually want them. However, the genetic relation is still prominent, though not through Jewel’s cussing. Vardaman continues to draw Addie as another animal in his mind. She is instead a fish to Vardaman, because he doesn’t belong to her; he is not a “son of a bitch” as a dog, but is still related in a different way. Vardaman can make the familial connections, stating that “Cash is [his] brother” (195), “Jewel is [his] brother” (210), and “Darl is [his] brother” (249). Because Vardaman draws these conclusions, he is indirectly a “son of a bitch,” so that such wording indicates his relationship to everyone in his family while remaining disconnected through animalistic images.
The Bundrens are all “sons of bitches,” in some manner or another. While being directly called so by Jewel, Cash and Darl then can intrinsically use this information. They do not have to act as what is considered “normal”, drawing in Cash’s animalistic logicality while Darl’s insights remain a more natural occurrence than the family itself. Thus, Faulkner’s narrative highlights her more animalistic or unusual, non-human instincts, such as revenge on Anse or the similar logical calculations she makes to negate her illegitimate child. However, as Dewey and Vardaman are not figuratively hers, they are not “sons (or daughters) of bitches,” meaning that they are not only not called that, but are not as prominently weird as the others. The usage of the term “bitch” invokes the animalistic image of the elder Bundrens, showing their connection as well as the dissonance between the other members of the family.
Faulkner’s Biological And Social Definition Of A Mother
For human beings, life inherently exists with a void, which people look to fill through indulging in various constructs set up and measured by society. Some invest themselves in money, some absolve themselves with religion, and still others utilize vanity as an impetus for survival. In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the central character of Addie Bundren is consumed by her void, the story of her struggle acting as the primary plot line of the novel, despite the fact that most of what is revealed about her is done so posthumously, as she is dead for most of the novel. Addie’s vice is not of dollars, deities, or demeanor, but rather, people. She repeatedly attempts to establish connections with others throughout her lifetime, most notably seen through her children. Yet, while she gives birth to them and acts as their caretaker throughout their formative years, she fails to create meaningful relationships in a way that brings her any sense of long term gratification. Faulkner’s work highlights the differences between the biological and social definitions of what is means to be a mother. Addie realizes one, but does not fully understand the other, heightening her feelings of depression and isolation to the eleventh hour of her passing.
While linguistic aspects of language would typically be the most apparent, throughout the novel, the emotional weight of language holds much more importance than its logical or face value characteristics. Words, to Addie, were not words. They were associations, a “shape to fill the lack” (Faulkner 40) for people who failed to comprehend the term through experience. There exists a “split between words and deeds (Mississippi State University); these experiences that connected to words had no standard or commonality, the way a definition for a word is unwavering and unchanging over time. These experience were based on her own knowledge, therefore limiting Addie’s perspective of the meaning of a word to the events in her own life.
Such an occurrence is not uncommon, and even holds scientific basis for psychological studies and activities. The issue lies not in the fact that she interprets vocabulary this way, but rather in the specific words Addie misunderstands, this “difficulty with language [serving] to mask meaning… and [illustrate] her message” (Mississippi State University). The word “love” is one that even the youngest children and most incompetent of minds can comprehend, used to express desire or affection, intended to represent something endearing or adored. However, Addie’s interpretation of “love” is completely warped. While she provides no explicit definition for the word, in her sole chapter, she explains it with great apathy, simply stating, “It didn’t matter” (Faulkner 40). Love for one’s offspring exists in even the most primal of beings, yet Addie claims that her first child, Cash, “did not need [it]” (40). Love is supposed to be the foundation for marriage, and, in Addie’s case, it holds true, but in a way that is far from the traditional sense. The only person Addie associates with the word “love” is her husband Anse, who she despises and blames for being the source of her discontent. The use of “love” within Addie’s crooked lexicon is a prime example of irony, as she only identifies it in conjunction with someone she hates.
Despite these misinterpretations, it is clearly evident that Addie understands what it means to mother a child in the physical sense. She viewed the birth of Cash as “a ‘natural’ result of her sexual expression” (Mississippi State University), and, as one can presume based upon themany children in the Bundren family, Addie was also no stranger to recurrent sex. She also had a strong understanding of the primitive biological idea of motherhood, which coincided with the role of women within rural Southern families. In conversations with Cora Tull, the Bundren’s wealthy, religious neighbor, Addie defends herself against Cora’s argument that she is “not a true mother” (Faulkner 40) by retorting within the contents of her personal chapter, that Cora “could never even cook” (40). In these subtleties are revealed what Addie defines as a mother: someone who cooks, cleans, and provides for the husband, so that he can provide for her.
Addie inability to satisfy both biological and social standards of a mother did not come unrecognized. In fact, she mentions that with the conception of Cash, she saw motherhood as a way to end her misery—“living was terrible and [this] was the answer to it” (40). Yet, as someone so use to isolation, she was completely exhausted at the responsibility of having to be by someone’s side at all waking hours of the day. This lack of contentment within her emotional void lead her completely astray from identifying with her child, claiming the child “belonged to Anse” (40).
Was Addie the mother of the Bundren children? Biologically, yes. However, bearing children does not always make you a mother. She sought emotional fulfillment in her children, when the reality was, she should have been providing emotionally for them. Addie failed to comprehend that a child’s needs do not lie solely in the bottom two layers of Maslow’s hierarchical pyramid. It takes emotional nurturing in addition to physical care to lead them on a brighter path than the one their predecessors might know. Without putting this initial action forward, there could be no equal or greater reaction to revive Addie Bundren’s faith in life in return.
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Web. 29 Apr.
“‘This was the answer to it’: Sexuality and Maternity in As I Lay Dying…” The Free Library.
1996 Mississippi State University 29 Apr. 2016. <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/%22this +was+the+answer+to+it%22%3a+Sexuality+and+Maternity+in+As+I+Lay…- a057535131>.
From Fish to Horses, What is Love: the Bundrens’ Definitive and Unusual Answer
“He had a word, too. Love, he called it.” Although Addie Bundren dismisses the word love when used by her husband, Anse, as “just a shape to fill a lack,” her other relationships are not as empty (172). In As I Lay Dying, Faulkner reveals the nontraditional love of Addie’s children after her death as the family ventures to bury her body in a nearby town. Often irrational, her four children struggle to cope with the death of their mother, especially when coupled with the disgraces heaped on her dead body by her selfish husband. The compassion of Vardaman, Cash, Jewel, and Darl toward their mother, however uncommonly shown, proves the authenticity of their sentiment in a way words could not.
Vardaman’s immaturity and lack of guidance leads him to express his legitimate grief in unhealthy and often incomprehensible ways. Initially, Vardaman seeks to find the cause of the expected death of this mother. His ignorance and emotional turmoil lead him to blame Doctor Peabody due to his recent visit. By blaming Peabody for having “kilt” his “maw,” Vardaman reveals the anguish caused by the death of the mother he loves (54). In his emotional state, Vardaman, drawing on a past dramatic experience, believes Addie needs air to survive, which forces him to ask Cash if he is going to “Nail it? Nail it?” (65). No strong adult figure emerges to explain the reality of death or counsel Vardaman, who is obviously distraught. His desperate and misguided love and loss, rather than reducing him to a melancholy stupor, instead leads him to “save” his mother by drilling air holes in the coffin and her face (67). However, the link Vardaman creates between his mother and the fish he caught and subsequently slaughters is illustrative of the love he maintains for his mother. Initially after Addie’s death, Vardaman mistakenly believes the disappearance of his large fish and the “disappearance” of his mother are inextricably linked. The fish becomes a symbol whose existence must be verified by Vernon, a neighbor who previously sees Vardaman and the fish. Because Vardaman strongly believes that “with both of us it will be and then it will not be,” there is no doubt of the emotional significance of the fish to Vardaman (67). As this thought matures the details are simplified until Vardaman bluntly proclaims that his “mother is a fish” (84). Although not a traditional comparison used to remember loved ones, Vardaman is only capable of expressing his complex emotions in terms of events he understands.
Like Vardaman, whose personal experiences shape the way he displays love, Cash’s technical skills allow him to grieve his mother’s death in equally potent though more subtle ways. In an attempt to show Addie the respect she deserves, Cash painstakingly constructs her coffin, using his wood-crafting skills to display his love and devotion. Although some characters view Cash’s decision to build Addie’s coffin within her sight as disrespectful, the “Chuck. Chuck. Chuck. of the adze” undeniably comforts Addie, who understands Cash’s affectionate action (5). Unsurprisingly, however, Cash’s logical mind is unwilling to accept the motives of his precise crafting. Instead of admitting he bevels the edges because he wants to give his mother the best, rather he enumerates thirteen reasons why a bevel is the most practical option. The closest he comes to voicing the truth is his vague thirteenth point: “It makes a neater job” (83). Even after the creation of the coffin, Cash continues to fret over its maintenance, strengthening the symbolic relationship between the coffin and his mother. After a piece of mud is flung from the road onto the coffin, Cash “scours at the stain with the wet leaves” in an effort to preserve the sanctity of the coffin, as well as the memory of his mother (109). While Cash does not feel the need to verbalize the strong love he has for his mother throughout the novel, it is Addie’s section which proves this to be an inherent characteristic of Cash, not a product of his grief. The relationship between Addie and Cash did not necessitate the verbalization of their shared emotion, love. Because Addie recognizes that “Cash did not need to say it to me nor I to him,” Cash finds other outlets, such as viewing the coffin symbolically as his mother, to express his love (172).
Although Jewel, like Cash and Vardaman, uses a physical object to represent his mother, he also allows his anger to color his actions and decisions. While Cash is making the coffin outside of Addie’s window, Jewel exhibits his first sign of aggression in regard to his mother’s memory. Instead of recognizing Cash’s true motives for crafting the coffin, Jewel angrily demands Cash “go somewhere else,” as if the creation of the coffin expresses Cash’s desire to see “her in it” (14). This unprovoked anger, undoubtedly a coping technique, is soon augmented by the symbolic significance Jewel places on his horse. Great thought is not required for the other characters to determine that “Jewel’s mother is a horse” (95). When Darl carries the assertion farther, reminding him that “it’s not your horse that’s dead,” Jewel erupts in anger, almost as if he can not bear to allow others to witness the depth of his devotion to his mother (94). Once the arduous steps required of Jewel to purchase the horse are revealed, the importance he places on it falls into perspective. Even with his beloved horse, however, an all encompassing anger is omnipresent in Jewel’s interactions. Many of Jewel’s selfless actions–like saving Addie’s coffin from the river and barn fire–seem to be prompted by his love-provoked anger. Even as his mother’s body rots in her casket, Jewel defends her honor, intentionally provoking a fight and risking bodily injury (228).
While the other Bundren brothers have physical manifestations of their mother, Darl lacks these concrete links and instead views the matter philosophically. Without Addie, or at least a physical representation of her, Darl’s own life loses focus and meaning; the continuity once present is erased. Initially, Darl even struggles with the idea of loving his deceased mother. Darl concludes, “I cannot love my mother because I have no mother” (95). This definitive statement does not settle Darl’s active mind, however, and he quickly expands upon his notion. When discussing the subject with Vardaman, who is still comforted by his concrete fish symbolism, Darl thinks only of Addie as a “was,” and because of this he concludes she “can’t be is.” More importantly, from this Darl proclaims, “Then I am not” (101). Linking his own existence with that of his mother is his subtle way of displaying love and grief. It is not until much later that Darl allows these thoughts to affect his actions. After more than a week tolerating the torture of Addie’s dead body, Darl expresses his love through selflessly sacrificing his own freedom to end the disrespect being paid his mother. In a desperate effort to allow his mother the peace she deserves after death, Darl sets fire to Gillespie’s barn, effectively trying to burn his mother’s rotting carcass. Vardaman’s comforting words–“Jewel got her out. You needn’t to cry, Darl.”–are ironic when Darl’s intentions are considered (225). Through accepting the inevitable consequence, imprisonment, of his action, Darl proves his love in a way the other characters cannot even begin to comprehend. Despite the common perception, Darl’s actions were not insane, but rather those of a son desperate to save his mother, even after death. While the other characters may keep their mother alive through physical manifestations that hold special significance, it is only Darl who truly thinks about the best interests of Addie.
The ways in which Vardaman, Cash, Jewel, and Darl express love for their dead mother are, if not uniform, closely related nonetheless. With the exception of Darl, Addie’s other sons rely on personally meaningful objects to provide a method of displaying their affection. While Darl refrains from using symbols, he instead takes direct action and unfortunately pays the price. Although the love of Addie’s sons towards their mother is manifested in peculiarly non-traditional ways, at least they did not rely on empty words.
As They Say, “Lying”: Stream Of Consciousness In As I Lay Dying
In William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, the dysfunctional Bundren family embarks on a telling journey from their farm in Yoknapatawpha County to bury their recently deceased and unmatronly matriarch, Addie. Composed of 59 sections narrated by 15 different people, Faulkner’s novel is a display of man’s primal selfishness told through many different streams of consciousness that more often than not reveal contradictory information. By utilizing this technique and deliberately withholding meaning from the reader, Faulkner constantly develops his story and comments on society’s obsession with absolute truths while, also, forcing the reader to become more active.
From the novel’s beginning, Faulkner establishes that the reader will not have things explained for them in an orderly way and must synthesize, on their own, what is presented. Darl, the first narrator, opens the tale with an account of a strange procession where he “turns and follows the path which circles the house” while Jewel, who has been given no background information either, “looking straight ahead, steps in a single stride through the window” with the “rigid gravity of a cigar store Indian dressed in patched overalls” (4). The scene seems ritualistic but, at the same time, puzzling and random to the reader who is left without any explanation. This absence of information used by Faulkner, effectively, draws the reader into the story and makes them more involved as they must try and make sense of the events instead of taking a passive role.
Additionally, Faulkner’s use of stream of consciousness emphasizes the reality that everyone’s perception is unique and biased, but also accepted as the absolute truth by the holder. A prime example of this is Darl’s assertion that Addie’s coffin, which is being made right outside her window and she dies, will give her “confidence and comfort” (5). On the other hand, Jewel criticizes the coffin making and scorns the “others sitting [by Addie], like buzzards” for being insensitive and cold (15). Both sons believe wholeheartedly in their opinions and do not doubt for a second that they are wrong. This contradictory distorted reality leads the reader to a state of skepticism where they never know who to trust. All of Faulkner’s characters are biased and, thus, all their narratives can be taken only as opinion. Another example of the character’s immensely varied outlooks on life is when Addie’s coffin falls in the river. While the youngest Bundren, Vardaman, repeatedly asserts that his mother is a fish, Anse complains about the hardships he has faced in life and decides that the fact that he will soon “get them teeth… will be a comfort” (111). Although both family members are experiencing the same situation, neither reacts to it in any way similar to the other. By using stream of consciousness, Faulkner directly illustrates to the reader each narrator’s organic thoughts and how they justify them. Ultimately, this can be extended as a universal observation by Faulkner of the human world- all individuals have a unique interpretation on the world and what is truth to one, may not necessarily be truth to another.
Lastly, Faulkner uses outsiders and their actions to reveal information that is left out by the family. On their way to Jefferson, the Bundren wagon passes a group of pedestrians and Darl notes:
We hear sudden voices, ejaculant. Jewel has been looking from side to side; now his head turns forward and I can see his ears taking on a still deeper tone of furious red. Three negroes walk beside the road ahead of us; ten feet ahead of them a white man walks. When we pass the negroes their heads turn suddenly with that expression of shock and instinctive outrage. “Great God,” one says: “what they got in that wagon?” (229)
Their reaction, which is an unsurprising reply to being met with the smell of a rotting corpse, strangely enrages Jewel who pulls a knife on the group. However, this incidence, also, serves as a reminder to the reader of the absurdity of the situation that the Bundrens are in and, additionally, that the Bundrens lack objectivity to their situation. The brush with outsiders who notice that the coffin reeks adds detail to the story that would have been absent had it been only an account of the lone family. Moreover, it highlights the grander truth that many find it difficult to see and understand things from another’s point of view.
Throughout the novel, Faulkner withholds meaning and explanations- choosing to make the reader infer for themself or wait for the details that are slowly revealed as the story progresses. In doing so, Faulkner forces readers into becoming immersed in his story that utilizes the “steam of consciousness” narrative which, ultimately, emphasizes that every experience produces unique reactions from different people.
Analysis Of “As I Lay Dying” By William Faulkner
The entire novel “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner is filled with great heroic efforts but at the same time is someway seems absurd at times. Anse, the father of the family and the laziest person should have been the provider but unfortunately he was exactly the opposite. He had a mentality of a rich man without any riches or wealth. He is a poor farmer with a hunchback and he’s selfish too. His wife Anse Bundren had five children, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. Her death triggers the novel’s action. She is a former school teacher whose bitter life causes her to take unfortunate actions. She loved and invested all her love in her favorite child, Jewel, instead of family and God.
The Bundern family is on to burring Addie. Jewel is very close to be considered as a hero. He was not traveling for any other motive except burying his mother. He also sacrifices his horse, which was very close to his heart, for the wagon team. Even if he did not know anything he had a more personal reason to bury his mother Addie away from the farm. In the middle of the whole mission they defeat water and fire to Jefferson where Addie has to be buried. There steps on this complications seems heroic although they come to a point where the consequence of the family’s action are foolish enough. The Burdrens’ looking to find a new way of crossing the flooded river at the beginning seems fine until it turns to be over dramatic.
Example to this would be the part where, a log approaches them and Cash makes a dash for the coffin while hurting his leg. This seemed to be a heroic action of Cash sacrificing his leg and his life too for his mother. Whereas Darl also says that his jumping from the wagon to save his life is also somehow saving their family’s future. Though according to me this action doesn’t seem to be heroic at all, instead it is somewhat disrespectful and selfish towards his dead mother. But at the same time if we take things in a different way than this Darl’s action could be considered as heroic as he already knew that his mother was dead and it was just her body with them now, so he tried protecting his family’s future giving it more priority. Addie is more of a “villain” than a hero of the story (which may seem obvious, but when we were first reading — before her chapter — I thought for sure that she would be proven compassionate, hardworking, etc. ), and the heroism of Anse is questionable. It’s interesting to look at Addie as the anti-hero.
At first I saw her as a hero before I really got to know her, as she had to deal with the many woes of being a Bundren. I pitied her position, and felt for her. The way in which those around her treat her after her death (preparing to take a long journey to Jefferson to bury her) seems like a heartfelt move, which made me feel like Addie cared about the poor, misfortunate Bundrens. I really like that Faulkner didn’t give in regarding “hero” stuff. Anse and Addie are people, not elevated by a happy ending for the kids or a heroic twist. It starts in the middle of one episode with Addie, and ends in the middle of another with the new Mrs. Bundren. I think the story (especially the ending) is very original. I think Cash comes the closest to a hero. He’s much more compassionate than he was at the start of the story, though I agree with you that Jewel is “arguably” a hero as well.
Furthermore, adding Jewels heroic action into account I find that breaking the ice by submerging his horse and himself into the river which was tremendously dangerous. Jewel here does the most heroic action. He proves to sacrifice himself along with his beloved thing that he owns just to make sure that his mother’s coffin crosses the river safely. He is sort of a main character of the entire operation. The brothers somehow attempts to keep themselves united while crossing the treacherous river, but they eventually began to panic and got off the track by forgetting what their actual goal was. At the end of the novel the Bundrens are at the Gillespie farm, and the barn catches fire and once again it seems like an idiotic commotion.
Jewel Bundren Character Analysis in as I Lay Dying
William Faulkner uses multiple narrators in As I Lay Dying, a technique that enables him to illustrate different mindsets on events and ethical questions. Some narrators’ motivations are clear: Dewey Dell is determined to get an abortion, for example, and Vardaman longs for a toy train and bananas. Jewel is more difficult to understand, and is the only member of the Bundren family who gives no personal narration following Addie’s death. Because the reader can only understand Jewel through the accounts of others, she may be particularly confused as to why Jewel would help Anse, a man to whom he has neither biological nor affable ties, by giving up the horse that has long been his only outlet for expressions of love. The explanation is that Jewel realizes he must compromise his principles to achieve anything, and that he becomes increasingly willing to question his immediate reaction to situations.
In order to understand Jewel’s final decision to help Anse, one must examine the relationship between Jewel and both his mother and horse. The filial relationship between Jewel and Addie is unique both emotionally and genetically. While Cash, Darl, Vardaman, and Dewey Dell are all the children of Anse and Addie, Jewel is the child resulting from the affair between Addie and Father Whitfield. As such, Addie favors Jewel over all the other children. Addie even admits to Cora that Jewel “is [her] cross and he will be [her] salvation. He will save [her] from the water and from the fire” (168). On the other hand, Addie’s opinion toward Cash and the rest of her children is made apparent in Addie’s own narration when Addie claims, “And when I knew that I had Cash, I knew that living was terrible and that this was the answer to it” (171). Addie considered having children with Anse both punishment and preparation for death as opposed to something from which to derive pleasure and love. Nevertheless, as a mother, Addie knew that she had to treat all of her children equally, and hated herself and Jewel in a way for forcing her to deceive the others into thinking she loved them all equally when love was a word she could not even comprehend. In this sense, Addie “whipped” Jewel more, disciplining him to make up for her overly-expressed love toward him. Since Jewel’s only source of love was that disguised by Addie’s anger, Jewel has also learned to love in such a way. To his horse, Jewel’s “tough-love” is reciprocal of his mother’s “teachings.” Jewel’s treatment of the animal that he bought with his own money with curses and pushes mixed with spoils and treats is Jewel’s highest form of expressing love.
Jewel’s love for his mother is obvious in his sole narration “dedicated” to Addie. Although Jewel’s hostile proclivity is thoroughly on the surface, his underlying intentions of wanting the best for his mother are obvious. Jewel goes as far as to wish that “it would just be [him] and her on a high hill and [him] rolling the rocks down the hill at [everyone’s] faces, picking them up and throwing them down the hill faces and teeth and all by God” in response to the constant attention by all that Addie is receiving on her deathbed. Furthermore, Jewel, except for “crazy” Darl, is the only one of the Bundren family that goes to Jefferson in order to bury his mother with no selfish side-intentions. Jewel’s love for his mother cannot be explicitly stated, for, like his mother claimed, the word love is only used by those who have never felt it. However, he would do nearly anything for her; Jewel would even break into a burning barn to rescue her coffin. While Jewel’s hostility toward anyone creates uncertainty about his character, he undoubtedly lives by one guiding principle: to do whatever it takes to please his mother.
However, when Anse asks Jewel to give up the horse in order to buy another team to continue on the way to Jefferson to bury Addie, Jewel must then decide between the two loves of his life: his horse and his mother. For Jewel to choose the horse, his mother would have to be buried near Armstid’s house, disregarding her last wish. If Jewel chooses his mother, she could make it to Jefferson, but he would lose the living animal for which he had cared so deeply. Contrary to Armstid’s belief, Jewel does not choose to help Anse because Anse just has “something” about him that makes any man want to help him. Jewel does not help Anse for Anse’s sake; he merely realizes that the love for his mother, without which he would never have lived to be able to have a horse to love so, is more important than his love for his horse. The entire journey to Jefferson would have been pointless if he refused to relinquish his horse, a disrespect Jewel does not wish to give his mother.
Despite his immediate reaction to run away to avoid giving up his horse, Jewel learns a new lesson in giving the horse to Snopes: to consider all the consequences of his actions before they are made. He realizes that his natural inclination to run away contradicted his overall desire to do the best for his mother. At the same time, his demand to put the coffin in the wagon without a balance led to its falling in the river, a complete disrespect of his mother. Thus he begins to question all his reactions to situations. This lesson is exemplified by Jewel reconsidering his anger toward the man whom he thought commented on his mother’s smell in Jefferson. Instead of punching the man as he normally would, Jewel goes as far as to apologize for his outburst. With the two he held most dear gone, Jewel realizes that his hostility has not gained him anything, although the losses themselves may not necessarily have been preventable. As such, giving up his horse is perhaps the beginning of a new outlook on life for Jewel, one in which he attempts to act in a loving way. Although Jewel cannot yet stop this aggression, he has undoubtedly begun an internal conflict in which he must recover from the loss of his two loves and learn a new way to live.
Lack of Communication: As I Lay Dying
In accordance with the increasing influence of Modernist thought affecting American literature during the twentieth century, William Faulkner was willing to exercise more experimental narrative techniques and styles. His novel that came from this experimentation, As I Lay Dying, is a testament to his critique of mankind as hopelessly poor, yet unyielding, communicators. The heavily disjointed Bundren family, along with the handful of spectators and strangers who also happen to be a part of the burial of Addie Bundren, form an equally disjointed patchwork of perspectives, opinions, longwinded internal monologues, and terse conversation. The resulting synthesized narrative is a literary panorama which reveals all of the overlapping layers and niches which create a comprehensive story of the Bundren family journey. Surprisingly enough, this story of a dirt poor Southern family spending five days burying their dead mother is rich and vibrant, featuring intense emotional turmoil and the testing of familial ties, all hidden within the respective characters’ minds and thoughts. Ultimately, the greatest tragedy of As I Lay Dying is not the death of Addie Bundren, but the suffering and resentment which the Bundrens undergo as a result of their failure to communicate with each other, their true thoughts and reflections only chronicled in their respective narrative sections.
Faulkner’s most significant representation of mankind’s inability to truly communicate is his implementation of fifteen separate narrators over fifty-nine separate, overlapping narrative sections, freely displaying the misunderstandings, delusions, and silent reflections that directly lead to all of the Bundren family’s public and personal dilemmas. Each with their own unique voice, desires, and worldly views, the various narrators of the novel are distinct and diverse. The Bundren family members are particularly divergent in their communication styles. The only characteristic they share is that they refuse to genuinely articulate themselves verbally to one another. All seven of the Bundrens almost exclusively express themselves in the novel’s narrative through rich, personal mental accounts of their impressions, feelings, and motives which go largely unheard by the other members of the family.
Cash, for example, is frequently ignored and overlooked despite his inherent levelheadedness. For example: “I told them that if they wanted it to tote and ride on a balance, they would have to” (165). Here, Cash is expressing his frustration at his family’s ignorance. Being the most logical and adept of the Bundrens, Cash had easily foreseen trouble at the crossing of the river, yet was completely ignored by the entire family. Faulkner even goes as far as to end his narrative mid-sentence. Clearly, this act of sheer disrespect towards the narrator mirrors the disrespect which Cash receives when he attempts to communicate. Rather than avoid calamity altogether, the Bundrens’ deaf ears and deaf souls result in disaster; Cash is swiftly isolated and subdued by both family blood and the rushing river waters. The only one who earnestly hears Cash is himself.
This isolation is true for all of the respective narrators within the novel. Each speaker is effectively secluded within their own minds, portrayed through their respective narrative sections. Progress only occurs if there appears to be shared opinions among all this communicative ambiguity. Cash elaborates on this idea in regards to Daryl’s incarceration: “Sometimes I aint so sho who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. 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. Because Jewel is too hard on him” (233). Indeed, Cash concludes that sanity, and by connection all conceptions of truth and reality, are relative to the perspectives by which it is observed and communicated. Darl’s declaration of insanity is only the result of other perspectives, like Jewel’s and the rest of the family, overpowering his own. This molding of what is considered to be the Bundrens’ reality is exemplified by the maze of individual narrative sections which actively bend and rewrite their story as it happens. Evidently, the method by which mankind perceives and evaluates truth is far too fickle and isolated for any effective communication, especially for the Bundrens.
Furthermore, Faulkner’s juxtaposition of rich, flowing stream of consciousness passages and the comparatively blunt vocal exchanges debases a large portion of the miniscule verbal communication present in the novel. The various narrative sections feature scant conversation between the characters. However, when compared to the abundance of resonant internal monologues which form the majority of the story’s progression, these short-lived outbursts of spoken word lose much of their relevance. For instance, as several of the older men of the novel gather around Cash and discuss his first broken leg, two distinctly separate conversations, one internal and one external, are visible. Tull comments, presumably in his mind, “I dont mind the folks falling. It’s the cotton and corn I mind. Neither does Peabody mind the folks falling. How bout it, Doc?” (90). Here, Tull in a near jocular manner, disregards Cash’s three-story fall from atop a church. He asserts that his and Peabody’s professions take precedence over Cash’s leg only moments, in fact, after Armstid had mentioned the potential of Cash being bed-ridden because of the accident. The difference between these two statements is that Armstid had spoken aloud and Tull had kept his true thoughts to himself. Tull then goes off riding on a loose, flowing narrative which Faulkner takes the effort to fully italicize, indicating an acute separation between Tull’s thoughts and the actual conversation at hand. In this particular moment, Tull is an example of how strongly the characters in the novel protect their inner thoughts from those who may be listening. As a result of this behavior, the vast stores of sincere reflections are transformed into hollow bits and pieces of dialogue. This is hardly sufficient communication for a family in crisis and leads to many fatal mistakes and misconceptions.
Finally, Faulkner’s terminating critique against communication in the novel comes from Addie’s bitter critique of language, the vehicle by which all communication has thus far been established. In her lone standing narrative section, Addie Bundren attacks the use of words as a legitimate method of communication. Particularly, when referring to Anse and the word “love,” she spits, “I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear,” (171). To Addie, words never quite “fit” the concept or emotion which they attempt to contain and symbolize, and can easily be discarded as soon as they fail to impel the idea to which they refer. In this instance, the word “love” fails Addie in multiple respects as she laments over her life which apparently lacked love entirely. Consequently, the word loses all meaning to her. However, Addie’s frustration over this single word holds solid ground as a universal argument against communication between mankind as a whole. Words such as “love” are mere hollow representations of the tangible concept and actualization of love, the communication of earnest thought and feeling via vessels which lack the impact and emotion necessary is fruitless. Unfortunately, the Bundrens are only able to communicate with the help of feeble words. Yet, lacking the experience and tangibility required to convey their ideas sufficiently, all attempts of communication simply fizzle out.
Despite being isolated in thought, the Bundrens and fellow narrators act, though obliviously, as a cohesive unit that tells the story of Addie Bundren in shocking detail. Partitioned into individualized narrative sections, Faulkner’s web of perspectives and characters forms a synthesis of thought which completely lacks communication. As such, the Bundrens’ failure, or perhaps inability, to communicate was the ultimate source of their troubles.
Peculiarities Of Moseley In ‘As I Lay Dying’
The single chapter in As I Lay Dying where Moseley becomes the narrative focalizer, is anomalous because the focalizer is a character that had not yet been mentioned, and is never mentioned again. The general pattern in the novel is that each focalizer is either a recurring character, or is mentioned for the first time in the last sentences of one chapter, and then becomes the narrative focalizer in the next. In the last sentence of one early Darl chapter, Darl says that “When Peabody comes, they will have to use the rope” (40). The reader has not heard the name Peabody yet, and as if to answer the question of Peabody’s identity, in the next chapter Peabody is the focalizer (41-46). It is as if we are introduced to somebody at a party, and then are allowed to have a conversation with them. Being introduced to them in the previous chapter is important in giving the reader some understanding of where the character fits in. The sentence “when Peabody comes . . .” certainly does not give us too much information, but at least we know he is somebody the family knows, who is coming to help them out. In a similar way, Darl, and Dewey Dell, and Jewel are all introduced into the novel. Moseley, by contrast, is like an individual who comes up to you at a party and just starts talking. There is no way for the reader, as he or she first reads this chapter, to place this woman in the larger framework of the story, and more importantly, no way to place the short tale of the chapter in the larger framework of the story. We see a girl who has gone to a drugstore to get an abortion, but up to this point, none of the focalizers have even been in a town.
As the chapter continues we realize that this scene, which was so confusing while in the midst of it, is actually incredibly elucidating for one of the largest themes of the book. We see that it is Dewey Dell who needs an abortion, and that her child is a product of incest. While in the midst of the micro-narrative, this chapter seems entirely confusing,. The reader is not able to situate any of the elements of the chapter in the framework the reader has developed through previous experience in the novel. But in the macro narrative, this tale is more obvious than most other information we receive in the novel. While this chapter is anomalous on a micro-level (the level of immediate experience as one reads the book) in giving the reader an unintroduced focalizer, in the larger structure of the book (as one is able to look back on previous events), it is representative of a recurring pattern: confusion being caused on a micro-level and resolved on a macro-level. The most obvious indication of this pattern, is that the first word of many chapters is a pronoun with no antecedent. “He” or “it” is the first word of nearly half the chapters. And when a mysterious word does not open a chapter, an equally mysterious sentence does. These first sentences are always a shock, after what minimal comfort the reader may have begun to feel with the focalizer in the previous chapter. Again, we are plunged into a darkness, out of which we must wade. But, of course, as the chapter goes on, it becomes clear who the “he” was, and who the “it” was, and why this unknown woman named Cora “saved out the eggs and baked yesterday” (6). It was a choice to deprive us of that information early in the chapter?a choice that logically follows from the intense subjectivity of the narrators?but a choice that consciously throws the reader into confusion that could be easily resolved.
Darl As A Character Or Narrator In Faulkner’s Novel
William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying tells the story of the Bundren family when the matriarch of the family dies. Faulkner alternates perspectives between each member of the family and their neighbors. While most characters focus on their thoughts around Addie’s death, Darl Bundren is more aware of his surroundings. He focuses on appearances and sensory details rather than how he feels about his mother’s death. Faulkner writes Darl this way to show his personality. Faulkner shows the audience Darl’s personality rather than telling them about Darl. If Faulkner had used stream of consciousness as he did with the other characters, he would have contradicted how he wanted to craft Darl.
When the audience is introduced to Darl, he and Jewel are walking home when he hears Cash making their mother’s coffin. Darl vividly describes the cotton house and how Jewel cuts through it to be ahead of him. He relates, “The path runs straight as a plumb-line, worn smooth by feet and baked brick-hard by July…” (Faulkner 3). Already we can start to put together Darl’s character. He pays close attention to detail even in the most trying times. As the audience continues to read and experiences different characters, they can clearly see that Darl is the most observant. The language Darl uses in each of his chapters is significantly more elevated than that of his family and neighbors. He describes, “Jewel’s eyes look like pale wood in his high-blooded face” (Faulkner 17). His elevated language provides evidence for reasoning that Darl is the most intelligent member of the Bundren family. Darl’s thoughts are more critical of the world around him when compared to his family. However, his eloquence in thought does not cross into his direct speech patterns, so Darl’s family may not know exactly how intelligent he is.
Throughout the non-Darl chapters, the characters consistently mention Addie Bundren and her death. Anse is determined to keep his promise to Addie that he will bring her back to Jefferson to be buried with her blood family. Dewey Dell reminds Anse about his promise to Addie and even earlier in the book is upset with Jewel and Darl leaving home while their mother is dying. Jewel is upset that everyone seems to be watching Addie die when he would rather just be alone with his mother. Vardaman is visibly distressed when Addie dies and accidentally drills a hole in Addie’s head. Even Cash, one of the main characters, is thoughtful of Addie when the family is trying to cross the river. Darl hardly mentions Addie in his chapters. In fact, he hardly shows any emotion about his mother’s death at all. He refers to Addie as ma only in one of his chapters, “It was ma that got Dewey Dell to do his milking, paid her somehow” (Faulkner 130), and after this paragraph, he returns to calling her Addie. This could show how strained his relationship with his mother is.
After days of traveling with Addie Bundren’s rotting corpse in a simple wooden coffin, Darl has a mental breakdown. He tries to burn the barn down where they have stopped for the night. However, Jewel saves the coffin, or Darl would have succeeded. Traveling with a rotten corpse would unnerve any person, but to try to destroy one’s own mother’s body is a sign of extreme disturbance. Why would Darl try to burn his mother’s corpse? Has the experience made him snapped? Is Darl simply a psychopath? The answer lies within his mental deterioration. The text states, “Darl had a little spyglass he got in France at the war” (Faulkner 254). He was in a war that took place in France, a soldier in World War I most likely. The Great War was the first modernized war with heavy artillery and chemical warfare. Darl would have seen horrific scenes of violence. His lack of emotional attachment to his mother might be explained by his military experience. To show any emotion in active combat could be hazardous to himself and his fellow soldiers. The smell of a decomposing body might have triggered a flashback for Darl. He would remember his fallen comrades in No Man’s Land. Soldiers would be simply left in No Man’s Land when they were killed in action; it was too dangerous for living soldiers to retrieve the bodies, and the fallen would stay in No Man’s Land until they were torn to shreds, buried with dirt from explosions, or eaten by vermin. If a soldier died in the trenches, his body could become part of the maze-work of the trenches. Darl is perhaps desensitized to the concept of a dead body. That is why he so easily decides to set afire his own mother’s body. He isn’t a psychopath with no feeling; he’s a war veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder. He pays more attention to his surroundings because he would have to take notice of enemies approaching during combat. Since he had a spyglass, his role in the army might have been a lookout. He would need to pay attention to detail.
Why would Faulkner write Darl as this war veteran, though? Did Faulkner simply need a plot device? One could argue that, yes, Faulkner did need a plot device to make the story have more challenges than simply obstacles nature presents the family. On the other hand, I argue that Faulkner uses Darl as the unofficial narrator of the story. Even with alternating perspectives, Darl could be the narrator. He knows his mother died despite being absent from home. He knows that Dewey Dell is pregnant even though she hasn’t told anyone. Darl knows that Jewel has a different father than the rest of the Bundren children. Even during his mental breakdown on the train, he narrates in third person. His family could sense his unique ability, and that is partially why they decide to send him to the mental asylum. Was Darl Bundren slowly slipping into insanity, or was his perspective simply transitioning into the formal narrator? Faulkner carefully wrote Darl’s character to transition into being a subtle narrator.
As I Lay Dying: How Does Time Affect How Human Experience is Portrayed?
Change from past to present:
“”His mind is set on taking her to Jefferson,”” Quick said.
“”Then he better get at it soon as he can,”” Armstid said.
Anse meets us at the door. He has shaved, but not good. There is a long cut on his jaw, and he is wearing his Sunday pants and a white shirt with the neckband buttoned. It is drawn smooth over his hump, making it look bigger than ever, like a white shirt will, and his face is different too. He looks folks in the eye now, dignified, his face tragic and composed, shaking us by the hand as we walk up onto the porch and scrape our shoes, a little stiff in our Sunday clothes, our Sunday clothes rustling, not looking full at him as he meets us.
“”The Lord giveth,”” we say. (Faulkner 86)
After brief interaction with Peabody, Armstid and Co., Tull turns his attention to Anse and talks in present tense. By beginning with the past and switching to present, Faulkner indicates the melding of the past and present together to show how the human experience is not straightforward.
This also shows a change in the conscious mind. Sections narrated in past tense seem to show a disengagement to the events in the passage while parts in present tense show immediate engagement and interest.
In the beginning, Tull is simply listening and not really participating. However, when Anse enters the scene, Tull’s attention is captivated and seems to be physically experiencing it which is indicated by both the present tense and the amount of detail he describes Anse, He looks folks in the eye now, dignified, his face tragic and composed.
Here, Faulkner is breaking through traditional storytelling of linear time by presenting a story that consistently flashes back to the past. This method also provides a reader of an idea of the characters’ mentality as they experience life. Those reflected in the past show little interest by the narrator. Meanwhile, those in present tense show attentiveness to the situation.
Moreover, Tull is able to describe his encounter with Anse with sight, sound and feeling, indicating his awareness of the events. Imagery like scrape, shak[e] and rustle are audible and physical descriptions.
Through this, Faulkner shows that the human experience and memory does not follow strict past, present and future terms. Unimportant events in the mind remain in the background in the past and significant events are portrayed in the present. The talk among the men continues, but it is in the background and past tense.
He shifts time in accordance to the characters’ intensity.
- 0.1 PASSAGE 2-DEWEY DELL
- 0.2 PASSAGE 3-DARL
- 0.3 PASSAGE 4-DARL
- 0.4 PASSAGE 5-VARDAMAN
- 1.1 PASSAGE 6-DARL
- 1.2 PASSAGE 7-DARL
- 1.3 PASSAGE 8-TULL
- 1.4 PASSAGE 9-DARL
PASSAGE 2-DEWEY DELL
The signboard comes in sight. It is looking out at the road now, because it can wait. New Hope. 3 mi. It will say. New Hope. 3 mi. New Hope. 3 mi. Now it begins to say it. New Hope three miles. New Hope three miles.
That’s what they mean by the womb of time: the agony and the despair of
spreading bones, the hard girdle in which lie the outraged entrails of events (Faulkner 120-121)
Dewey Dell feels trapped in time, her monologues are mostly in harsh, present tense, indicating her consciousness frozen in the present. Unlike other characters in the book whose mind freely moves from past to present with each scenario, she is unable to do so which shows that her psyche is one of constant agony as the only woman in the family and one that is reminded by the baby in her belly.
She uses words like hard girdle and womb of time to show how she feels caged by her current situation and hopes to get it over with quickly. Her noting of New Hope three miles show her desperation to get to Jefferson, almost like she’s watching the seconds tick by on a clock, wishing for it to go faster but experiencing what seems like standstill in the wagon.
Since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is. (Faulkner 80-81)
When Darl talks about empty[ing] [him]self, he is emptying himself into time and releasing his existence within time. However, since he has not done this, he continues to be an is, his physical and mental mind both in the present.
Darl tries to claim the nature of existence within time and finds himself becoming lost in the flux of time. He plays with is and was, which are signifiers of the passage of time, weighing each one and trying to understand their meaning. However, because of Darl’s inability to understand the concept of time and his existence within it, he is incapable of following time. By the end of the story, Darl is left without any identity in time, switching from past to present constantly and even to third person.
They pulled two seats together so Darl could sit by the window to laugh.
One of them sat beside him, the other sat on the seat facing him, riding backward. One of them had to ride backward because the state’s money has a face to each backside and a backside to each face, and they are riding on the state’s money which is incest.
The wagon stands on the square, hitched, the mules motionless, the reins wrapped
about the seat-spring, the back of the wagon toward the courthouse. It looks no
different from a hundred other wagons there; Jewel standing beside it and
looking up the street like any other man in town that day, yet there is
something different, distinctive.
During that passage, he mainly focuses on the past except when his mind pictures his family in Jefferson. This signifies his emotional mind wanting to be there but his physical state and mental mind are trapped in a cage in Jackson.
So in a sense, his loss of time and existence has separated his emotional mind from the rest of his mind, leaving him with no true nature of existence. To him, his past and present self are all melded into one being which is left without a cohesive identity and place in time.
At this time, Darl has accepted his fate of becoming a was and emptied himself of being an is. Thus, his emotional mind is left without a home because Darl has become a was while his physical body is still in the present and is left without the spiritual existence of Darl in it.
What does time say about the emotional self?
It was not her. I was there, looking. I saw. I thought it was her, but it was not. It was not my mother. She went away when the other one laid down in her bed and drew the quilt up. She went away. “”Did she go as far as town?”” “”She went further than town.”” “”Did all those rabbits and possums go further than town?””… And so if Cash nails the box up, she is not a rabbit. And so if she is not a rabbit I couldn’t breathe in the crib and Cash is going to nail it up. And so if she lets him it is not her. I know. I was there. I saw when it did not be her. I saw. They think it is and Cash is going to nail it up.
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 et. Then it wasn’t and she was, and now it is and she wasn’t. And tomorrow it will be cooked and et and she will be him and pa and Cash and Dewey Dell and there wont be anything in the box and so she can breathe. It was laying right yonder on the ground. I can get Vernon. He was there and he seen it, and with both of us it will be and then it will not be. (Faulkner 66-67)
Vardaman can only comprehend things in the present because he cannot understand the passage of time. He reasons with himself how Addie came to be dead without comprehending her death. He explains to himself that Addie’s passing is not a passing at all but has merely left the scene, continues to live in the coffin, or has becomes the fish he caught. Vardaman’s belief of Addie still living within the coffin is shown when he tries to comprehend his mother in the coffin, explaining to himself that a rabbit couldn’t breathe in the crib. This eventually convinces him to drill holes into the coffin to allow her to breathe, signifying that Vardaman still believes his mother is living and does not understand that time has taken her away from him. This idea is also revealed when Vardaman excitedly asks Darl if he caught his mother, telling him You never got her. You knew she was a fish but you let her get away (Faulkner 151). To him, his mother is alive (in one way or another).
THE TIME OF OUR LIVES
Tull is in his lot. He looks at us, lifts his hand. We go on, the wagon creaking, the mud whispering on the wheels. Vernon still stands there. He watches Jewel as he passes, the horse moving with a light, high-kneed driving gait, three hundred yards back. We go on, with a motion so soporific, so dreamlike as to be uninferant of progress, as though time and not space were decreasing between us and it. (Faulkner 107-108)
Time is drifting away from the Bundrens, almost as if they are losing sight of the past present and future, very similar to how the book uses past, present and future tense freely to describe occurrences. It is almost as if they are stuck in time with soporific and dreamlike motion which seem to move uninferant of progress. Time, and its meaning within the book is decreasing.
The river itself is not a hundred yards across, and pa and Vernon and Vardaman and Dewey Dell are the only things in sight not of that single monotony of desolation leaning with, that terrific quality a little from right to left, as though we had reached the place where the motion of the wasted world accelerates just before the final precipice. Yet they appear dwarfed. It is as though the space between us were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before us in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between us like a looping string, tie distance being the doubling accretion of the thread and not the interval between. (146)
After watching the river swirl with impermanence and change, Darl creates a connection between the physical form he just witnessed and space and time. Like the river, it is forever changing
This passage speaks to the idea that time is not linear but varies by human experience. Time no longer run[s] straight but runs parallel with each character. Instead, it loops and turns much like the river they are crossing. Time ebbs and flows with each character.
Darl also describes distance as a double accretion of the thread. While accretion can mean a growth, it can also mean the accumulation of disparate fragments to make one whole, much like how the story is narrated not only with each person’s perspective but also time frame. Time flows differently for each character, some moving faster than others. But each time frame harmonize to tell a story with a beginning and an end.
The women sing again. In the thick air it’s like their voices come out of the air, flowing together and on in the sad, comforting tunes. When they cease it’s like they hadn’t gone away. It’s like they had just disappeared into the air and when we moved we would loose them again out of the air around us, sad and comforting. Then they finish and we put on our hats, our
movements stiff, like we hadn’t never wore hats before. On the way home Cora is still singing. (Faulkner 91-92)
He creates his own time space, very fast†’ indicates the significance of events and his consciousness.
Jumps abruptly from scene to scene†’ represents Tull’s psychological time span, each sentence representing a unit of time. This portrays Tulls consciousness during the funeral.
He starts this passage with singing and ends with Cora still singing so it seems like this time frame belongs to that of the funeral.
Time frame changes with each character and each scene that the character deems important or unimportant (or creates a lasting impact on his/her mind)
What does time say about the human consciousness and thinking?
If you could just ravel out into time. That would be nice. It would be nice if you could just ravel out into time.(Faulkner 208)
Darl’s desire to unfold time speaks to the book’s sudden changes in past and present tense. Indeed, Faulkner does not provide the reader with a stable present tense and changes tenses within each characters’ section.
Darl’s awareness of the profoundity of time and the end of it: death. He is also overwhelmed by triviality of human life against time because his is will eventually become was in time. Thus, by yearning to Ravel out into time he wants time to become fully unfurled to without any existence at all.
Darl’s loss in time results in his mind becoming locked out of his physical self. His mind has convinced itself that existence is nonexistent, he has become a was while his current physical psyche lives on as his is, without logical or comprehensive thought that was seen throughout much of the book.
How does the passage of time relate to human existence?
Time is not always felt in sequence, it varies boundlessly and constantly intertwines itself with aspects of human experience.
By dissolving the concept of time and lacking a stable present, Faulkner is able to shape character consciousness by warping time, stretching or shrinking durations with the intensity and engagement within characters’ inner lives.
His usage of the past tense and present tense also shows the variability in human awareness and perception of events.
Fragments of time, no matter how discordant and anachronist, can come together to form a story, just as it did in As I Lay Dying.