William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying,” originally published in 1930, is a powerful mix of emotion and intellectualism that effectively illustrates a rural and impoverished family and their surroundings as they deal with the loss of their matriarch Addie Bundren. Teens can relate to this novel because it explores the lives of young people and how they cope with the struggles of life.
The fact that the lives of these characters is examined through their own voices in a stream of consciousness gives the reader a full interpretation into the agonies, pleasures, and pains experienced by the Bundren family and how they deal with their everyday hardships.
The most intelligent and sympathetic voices in the novel, in my opinion, are the voices of Darl Bundren and his only sister Dewey Dell, who is carrying the secret of her pregnancy and her intentions on receiving an abortion. Darl is the second oldest son of the Bundren family, behind Cash Bundren, and he has a difficult time dealing with the sudden death of his mother.
His chapters are eloquent and fully articulated, but his intelligence doesn’t serve him since he is eventually sent to a mental institution by the end of the novel.
He is highly sensitive and intuitive and, despite his lack of formal education, his train of thought is the most honest in the novel. The stream of consciousness that is present is very straightforward and Dell’s character is no exception. She harbors a dark secret and her train of thought is very hopeful as she constantly wishes for a better future for herself. Darl is the most identifiable character because he is intelligent and intuitive, but at the same time he is very sensitive and hard-working.
In “As I Lay Dying,” Faulkner gives each of his fifteen narrators their own unique personalities through their own train of thought, and it is in this train of thought that the reader gets a full illustration of a certain character’s perspective.
The theme of isolation is highly present in “As I Lay Dying” and this theme was integrated into the novel on purpose by Faulkner. Through presenting the theme of isolation, Faulker allows each character to give his/her own interpretation to what is going on around them.
He controls the reader’s closeness to certain characters by presenting different lengths for each perspective.
In other words, the longer the chapter that illustrates a certain character’s perspective, the closer the reader becomes to that character because they are receiving a full and intricate examination into that character’s own unique world. They are getting an idea about how that character thinks and feels and so, as a result, the reader gains a more solid understanding of that character and their particular situation and each situation is different for each character.
For the begrudging family patriarch, Anse Bundren, it is the coming to terms with the loss of his beloved spouse. Darl’s situation is also about coming to term with the loss of a loved one, someone who is his mother but he is also concerned with his socioeconomic standing. He and his family are impoverished in a rural town and that poverty shapes his perspective on the world. Dell is also dealing with the loss of her mother but, at the same time, she is dealing with the complicated issue of concealing her pregnancy- a very important issue- from those she loves the most.
By presenting these various points of view, Faulkner gives the reader a complete and total impression about the Bundren’s and how they are dealing with the death of their matriarch Addie while at the same time accepting the inevitability of mortality.
In conclusion, Faulkner presents very multifaceted and complex characters in his novel “As I Lay Dying.” Through his writing, he is able to express the mindset of a grieving family as they deal with the oppressive socioeconomic conditions of poverty while also handling the death of their matriarch.
Despite the fact that they are different in so many ways, the characters of Darl Dundren and Dewey Dell are both very descriptive in effectively illustrating both their frustrations and aspirations throughout the novel. These descriptions ultimately add to the overwhelming and commanding storyline regarding the themes of mortality, isolation, and poverty in Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying.”
Teens can relate to this novel because it explores the lives of young people and how they cope with the struggles of life.
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Disclaimer: I bought this novel with my own money at a local bookstore.