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.
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