Critical Thinking

In of the Bundrens, because they have no

In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, characterization, specifically through the multitude of narrators, transforms an otherwise pedestrian plot into a complex pilgrimage to the truth. As I Lay Dying is told from the perspective of fifteen different characters in 59 chapters (Tuck 35). Nearly half (7) of the characters from whose perspective the story Each character responds to the events that are unfolding in a unique way and his or her reactions help to characterize themselves and others. “…each private world manifests a fixed and distinctive way of reacting to and ordering experiences” (Vickery 50). They may choose to constrain their reaction to the realm of audible indulgence in the form of word, through the actions they take, or by reflecting upon the situation in contemplation. These responses shed light upon what kind of personality each character possesses. On a conscious level the characters make decisions based upon three criteria. They can act on sensation, they can use reason for guidance, or they can act upon their innate intuition. “Faulkner The eight non-Bundrens, friends, neighbors, and onlookers alike, as true, or discard them as utter fiction. The decision more pronounced. Furthermore, the onlookers’ narration needs to be free of bias for true objectivity. Faulkner lets the most detached characters of the book give the most objective views of the Bundrens, because they have no bias towards them. The stronger a character’s morals are and the stronger their predisposition, the more skewed their objectivity. Cora is a good example for distorted objectivity. As a deeply fervent religious character Cora and the everlasting salvation and grace is not upon her” (Faulkner 8). Cora’s husband, Tull, “Faulkner’s greatness as an artist is due to…his ability to… make the real symbolic without sacrificing reality” (Campbell 28). As I Lay Dying contains plethora of truths made apparent through the direct characterization of characters philosophies and religious beliefs. Many of the non-Bundrens hold philosophies that speak universal truths. Peabody, the level headed physician to the Bundrens recounts a childhood fallacy he death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind – and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement” (Faulkner 52). Constant insight into characters moral fibers yields deep philosophical views that change a commercial plot into a dissertation on life. The onlookers’ religious beliefs also highlight life lessons. Tull holds a seemingly absurd view on feminine purport to this world. “…the reason the Lord had to create women is that man don’t know ‘The Lord giveth,’ I say” (Faulkner 30). Faulkner makes a point to point out the bond between Tull’s words and his thoughts, but also shows how words spoken are less powerful than thoughts thought, thus showing how words muddy intention. Through religious belief Faulkner speaks volumes about life. Vardaman is the youngest member of the Bundren Family who responds to his surroundings with a mix of colloquial words and contemplation. He suffers the same loss as the others, but due to his lack of maturity is unable to affect a synthesis between thought and emotion, and instead undergoes a kind of dismemberment of his identity, much as his family’s identity does (Magill 1058). He feels regret when Addie dies, a sensation he mistakenly connects to the death of a fish, and then he relates her to the fish (Faulkner 84). Vardaman’s inability to articulate his sensations illustrates his immaturity and lack of credence as a narrator. Vardaman with confidence in his family through his blind faith. Dewey Dell is a selfish teen, prematurely pregnant, whose true motive for the journey is to find abortion pills. She is 27). Her claim to universal truths is somewhat skeptical due to her lack of credibility; her deepest observation is of her own unborn child. “It’s like everything in the world for me is inside a tub full of guts,” (Faulkner 58) thinks Dewey Dell. Her shallow explanation of how important her child is will never be understood by her because of her failure to realize her ideas through thought or action. Dewey Dell’s religious beliefs can only be inferred from her actions. An abortion, an act of sin, which she conscientiously pursues, proves her lack of faith. Jewel is another character whose religious affirmations are hard to gauge, due to his lack of narration and inner thoughts explained. Jewel is the middle child, and incidentally the only child not related to Anse by blood. He is the product of Addie’s affair; a venture into the forsaken sin of adultery, rather than the hollow act of fulfilling the meaning of the words “husband and wife” (Vickery 54). His language is terse, as are his actions, which proves coherency of reason and reaction. His actions speak louder than his words, but are meaningless reflections of his inner motives, and therefore cannot divulge the intricacies of life. However, Jewel does act as Addie’s pawn in her revenge, as he saves her coffin countless times and perpetuates the savage journey (Magill 1058). It is important to note though, that Jewel is the only truly independent character in the novel besides Addie (Tuck 39). He is confident in his actions without the presence of Addie, unlike the other Bundrens, especially Anse. Anse is the father of the Bundrens, but certainly not a father figure. He lacks the paternal wisdom expected of fathers and repeats words and actions as meanings, rather than giving them meaning. He reduces the richness of events to threadbare clichés as an onlooker, rather than participant and should therefore He makes it long ways, like a …road… when he aims for something to stay put, He makes it up-and-down ways, like a…man” (Faulkner 36). An interesting theory to consider, nonetheless his philosophy Anse is a selfish character, as characterized by his zealous hunger for new teeth, “but now I can get them teeth,” (FFaulkner 111 and his lack of respect for Addie’s funeral procession. Anse is overtly religious, but lacks convictions for his theologically justified machinations. “God’s will be done… Now I can get them teeth” (Faulkner 52). He simply uses religion for its face value, again mimicking words rather than giving them meaning. Cash is the eldest son and only skilled workman of the Bundren Family. His aptitude in woodworking emphasizes his mature capacity to fuse words and actions, reason and intuition (Vickery 51). His thoughts can be considered credible due to this maturity. His tune characters to divulge life lessons. D the rift in his words and thoughts. Though on the surface D and words. D accounts of other characters’ experiences. (Morris 154). Darl’s religious beliefs closely mirror his mother’s, as do his philosophical beliefs. “Since there is not virtue attached simply to the meticulous repetition of its words and gestures, it is the individual who must give meaning and life to ritual by recognizing its symbolic function” (Vickery 52-53). This is Addie Bundren’ to deconstruct words into functions than reconstruct the words upon another entity (Morris 156). His realization of the travesty that is the interment comes when he realizes that “superficial chattiness moves up…quick and harmless” (Kinney 163). The final similarity between Addie and her son Darl is their views on life. Addie knows that the purpose of life is to get ready to stay dead a long time (Faulkner 169). Darl finds the purpose of his life when he yearns to “ravel out into time”; he is ready to stay dead a long time (Kinney 166). As I Lay Dying is a masterpiece that explores philosophical and religious truths through a simple plot. The characterization of multiple characters through their ability to articulate their feelings gives credence to, or detracts credibility from their beliefs. In a quote Faulkner sums up the meaning of his work saying “beneath that false blandness the true force of it leans against us lazily” (Faulkner 158).


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