Critical Essays Available Online

As you search for critical essays to post here for your contributions, you may consult the Faulkner Archive page (As I Lay Dying) for some possible candidates, or you may find your own candidates via searches of appropriate library databases including JSTOR, Academic Search Premier, ProQuest, ProjectMUSE, or Literature Online (accessible via the library database page). The article you select should be at least ten pages in length, and the summary you provide should be 200-250 words in length. The entries below offer examples of the format you should adopt in your posting.

Adamowski, T. H. "'Meet Mrs. Bundren': As I Lay Dying--Gentility, Tact, and Psychoanalysis." University of Toronto Quarterly 49.3 (1980): 205-227. Academic Search Premier.
  • Adamowski’s article provides a detailed psychoanalysis of the novel, and discusses the prevalence of Oedipus complexes and preoedipal phases. The novel progresses as a series of monologues without a narrator and centers around each character’s motives. The corpse becomes the only unifying object. Adamowki then goes on to examine the theme of privacy and violation, centering on Addie and her desire for intense privacy with moments of intimacy. Her aloneness is first violated by the birth of Cash, but is also restored through the nonverbal intimacy she develops with Cash; however, Anse promptly violates this by forcing her to conceive Darl. Darl is thus established as an outsider, as he is an unwanted child, and contributes to his unsureness of selfhood. Adamowski cites Fairbairn’s theory on constant oscillation and the desire for independence and fear of abandonment. Darl only experiences the isolation side and this choice is made for him. Adamowski points out parallels between Dewey Dell and Addie as she is pregnant and trying to violate the violation through an abortion. This contributes to the incestual undertones that Adamowski illustrates between Jewel and Addie, and Darl and Dewey Dell. Adamowski believes that there are Oedipal complexes present in both Jewel and Darl who displace their love on his horse and Dewey Dell, respectively. Addie is portrayed as a callused and irreverent character, but Adamowski believes that he triumphs. Also Anse is portrayed stranger/outsider and this contributes to Addie’s role as a father/phallic symbol. [WMB spring 08].

Atkinson, Ted. “The Ideology of Autonomy: Form and Function in As I Lay Dying.The Faulkner Journal. 21.1/2 (2005/2006): 28-50. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 24 April 2008.
  • Ted Atkinson presents a dense and wandering argument about the ability of art (or people) to have substantive autonomy in the social reality. Autonomy is defined as “art’s (relative) independence in the face that it be socially useful,” declaring that art should be done for the form it takes from the author, not what function it can play in the larger social context . Ultimately, he argues that while an artist may attempt to separate his work from the general, mass produced, popular culture there is still a reliance on the outside world to supply its shape and meaning. Framing his argument with the assertion that Faulkner himself was certainly not autonomous, declaring he intimately tied the novel to the economic and social confusion after the stock market crash, Atkinson uses the coffin Cash creates as a symbol for the struggle between individual and society/ form and function. He declares that the crafting of the coffin shows the careful precision and form Cash put into the coffin, but for the reason that its function was to hold his mother. Atkinson, though seemingly arguing both individualism and the communal nature of art/people, argues late in the paper that humans essentially must support both ideas. As the Bundren family appears to all come together to finally lay Addie to rest, the trip is powered by their own objects of want. Essentially, human nature may individualistic in want, but it cannot escape being framed by a larger social context. [JRB08]

Atkinson, Ted. "The Ideology of Autonomy: Form and Function in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." Faulkner Journal 21.1/2 (2005/2006): 15-27. Academic Search Premier.
  • In his article, “The Ideology of Autonomy: Form and Function in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying,” Ted Atkinson makes the argument that Cash Bundren’s coffin is an overall metaphor for the novel itself. Atkinson begins his article by stating that Faulkner wrote the novel during a time of financial and national instability, and that this economic backdrop is what provoked Faulkner to use authorial autonomy in his writing style. Atkinson then notes that although Faulkner used modernist techniques, he still recognized that there still exists a relationship between literary autonomy and social reality, and this relationship is what Faulkner sees as a division between the novel’s form and its function. Atkinson then notes that the parallel with Cash’s coffin and the novel itself is this concept of form and function. Atkinson believes that Faulkner emphasized the importance of the shape and structure of the coffin but also stressed the coffin’s use value to symbolize the use of artistic autonomy that Faulkner employed in his writing style but also his awareness of the function that the novel must ultimately serve. Just as the coffin was built uniquely but had to effectively serve its purpose, Faulkner wrote the novel in a nontraditional manner to suggest the ideology of autonomy but still did not make the novel too abstract , or avant-garde, so as to ignore its ultimate purpose. Another way that Atkinson states that the coffin is a metaphor for the novel itself is that in both cases, the final production of the works demonstrate “a moment of truth for the carpenter: the time when production gives way to reception and the object enters the traffic of the world.” Both Cash and Faulkner unveil their hard work at the risk of receiving judgment from the public. [JMA spring 2008]

Anderson, John D. "As I Lay Dying: Faulkner's Tour de Force One-Man Show. Text and Performance Quarterly. 16.2 (1996): 109-130. Humanities International Index.
  • In this article, Mr. Anderson analyzes the role of Darl in As I Lay Dying, summarizing that the entire novel is a tour de force performance by Darl. This idea centers on the idea that Darl performs all the other voices within the novel and not just his own sections. In order to support his claims, Anderson first defines a performing consciousness, the actual identity of the character within the novel. This performing consciousness takes over the role of the absent, omniscient narrator. The author grants this character with the ability to perceive live through the eyes of the other character of the novels, thereby giving them the allusion of omnipotence while maintaining their role in the story. Darl, as the performing consciousness, tries to wrestled with his ability to perceive life through the eyes of the other characters, eventually driving him to madness and a fragmented personality. While Anderson maintains that seeing Darl as the performing consciousness is not the only way to read the novel, it is Darl’s “privileged voice” that sets him apart from the other characters, making him the superior character in the novel. Anderson notes that Darl narrates a third of the novel, more than any other character, and that he frequently, “displays powers of extrasensory perception.” Furthermore, Anderson emphasizes the location of Darl’s most important sections and his connection to Faulkner himself to support the argument of the article. The author ends the novel by analyzing Darl’s “shamanism” within the novel, focusing on the family secrets Darl uncovers and his psychological fragmentation as the novel progresses. Because Darl uses the typical shaman imagery of death, rebirth, sexuality, etc, Anderson concludes that Faulkner’s tour de force functions through Darl, making him the centralized character in a seemingly ensemble novel. [CJR -- Spring 08]

Baldanzi, Jessica. "What Remains?: (De)Composing and (Re)Covering American Identify in "As I Lay Dying" and the Georgia Crematory Scandal." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 36.1 (2003): 38-55. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 15 April 2008.

  • Baldanzi attempts to relate the decaying corpse of Addie Bundren from As I Lay Dying in regards to the scandal regarding the discovery of over 300 bodies left unburied rather than cremated using different topics. The stench of the decaying body of Addie serves as a metaphor for the Bundren family’s unspoken histories that have been pushed aside but stubbornly refuse burial (38). While attempting to make this a private manner, both the scandal and the journey to Jefferson becomes public due to the Addie’s stench for the story and the media for the scandal. Anse begins the journey with devotion so dogged that he begins late and ignores bad weather. The body begins to rot as we realize Anse’s real motives rising to the surface as the rest of the “buried” stories of the family begin to arise as well. In regards to the scandal, our approach to dealing with bodily remains threatens to generate unwanted information (42). With the heading of decay, Baldanzi mentions that the only stable American identity categories are stereotypes such as the scramble for cover-ups have become more intense. Faulkner and the scandal illustrate the idea “that the ‘unspeakable’ can find other channels of publicity, such as the smell of rotting flesh or even the mapped coordinates of a physical site” (52). Faulkner said there is no such thing as ‘was’ only ‘is’ and as we can see, this is a testament to the character of humanity. [MN08]

Beck, Warren. “Faulkner’s Point of View” College English 2.8 (1941). 736-749. JSTOR . Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC 22 April 2008.

  • Contrary to the belief that Faulkner was devoid of ideas and perspective, this author argues that it is his beautiful realism coupled with his subtle ideology of compassion which critics consistently miss. He supports this statement by pointing out that in Faulkner’s individualistic style, he uses an empathetic moralist perspective to lessen the horrific actions of other characters and enhance the integrity of mankind. Furthermore, Faulkner’s negative realism demonstrates the kind of malevolence that his simple, bucolic characters must deal with daily. His perspective is entrenched with the depiction of people using their sense of right and wrong in a world where they will inevitably face defeat. Because of this type of setting, the characters tend to become detached after living in the Southern realm of chronic failure. In culmination with this removal, Faulkner portrays a great deal of madness and irrationality in his work through characters like Darl. The author disputes that he is thoughtless as an author simply because he touts madness in his literature. [AN_Spring08]

Bedient, Calvin. "Pride and Nakedness in As I Lay Dying." Modern Language Quarterly 29.1 (1968): 61-76. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is novel about real life in that there is no schematization or set moral code. Like life, the novel is meant to be felt and experienced, not translated or analyzed. Bedient presents that life is the antagonist in this novel and that nakedness, or isolation, is a kind of defeat. Interesting, Faulkner suggests that society is merely a principle of survival. Two characters in the novel embody Faulkner’s themes on isolation and pride. Nakedness assumes an absolute form in Darl Bundren, while pride contains a constructive stabilizing medium in Cash. Darl is a demonstration of our natural emptiness and his identity is unable to convert o positive activity. He cannot become himself in life because he is unloved. So Darl symbolizes our nakedness which cannot defend itself, and Cash symbolizes the pride that saves us and gives us our identity. After all, our identity is dependent on our pride because the person or identity that we present to people is what we like about ourselves. Cash is undoubtedly the most human of the Bundrens, so perhaps Faulkner is suggesting that pride is not necessarily as bad as many people think that it is. Bedient ends the article by discussing the naturalistic qualities of Faulkner’s form and style. [RB07]

Bergman, Jill. "This Was the Answer to It': Sexuality and Maternity in As I I Lay Dying." Mississippi Quarterly 49.3 (1996): 393-408. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Bergman delves into the minds of southern women, specifically Addie, in the 1920s and 1930s and examines their thoughts on sexuality, maternity and birth control. Referencing historical figures such as Margaret Sanger, Emma Goldman, and Mary Dennet, who promoted the widespread education of women about effective birth control, the critic discusses how it was illegal to discuss birth control methods during this time period. However, the irony lies in the fact that doctors told woman, who were content with the number of children they had birthed, it would be unhealthy to have any more children, but they would not give them education about contraception. Through the character of Addie, Faulkner comments on how hard motherhood was for rural lower class women. Paradoxically, child rearing has stripped them of their sexual freedom leaving the mother as an icon for chastity and sex for the sole purpose of procreation. Addie looked for sexual gratification through her affair with Whitfield, but in return only received another child. And in penance to Anse, she gave him more children, only further suppressing her sexual desires. Bergman concludes that in the end, Addie was happier to die because an actual death to her was better than the death of her sexual freedom. [CH07]

Blotner, Joseph L. "As I Lay Dying: Christian Lore and Irony." Twentieth Century Literature 3.1 (1957): 14-19. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 26 April 2008.
  • In this article, Blotner discusses how the Christian references in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying shed light on the status of the Bundrens in their community. He explains how all the Bundrens have selfish motives for going to Jefferson except for Cash. Cash is essentially the only selfless character that has integrity and dignity. The first Christian reference that Blotner analyzes is the parallel between Anse and Noah from the Bible. Noah’s flood and Anse’s experience of the flood is the main parallel here. The irony of the parallel is unveiled as Blotner looks deeper. God selected Noah because he was a good man among wicked men. Anse, on the other hand, feels like he deserves God’s blessing when he really doesn’t. Furthermore, Noah’s ark was built to sustain life while Anse built the coffin to carry death. Blotner goes on to list more layers of irony within the parallel. Blotner argues that Faulkner uses this irony to contrast how the righteous Noah was sustained by God and the unrighteous and hypocritical Bundrens were struck down by God. Blotner lists many other ironic Biblical parallels in the novel. Blotner believes that Faulkner uses these parallels to highlight the unrighteousness, the hypocrisy, and the lost nature of the Bundren family. [KJK08]

Delville, Michel. "Alienating Language and Darl's Narrative Consciousness in As I Lay Dying." Southern Literary Journal 27.1 (1994): 61-72. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Delville examines the rhetoric of the characters in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, particularly focusing on Darl and the divide between his narrative and his speech and actions as told by other characters. Delville argues that Faulkner is inconsistent in the characters’ speech verses their monologues. He attempts to explain these inconsistencies. He reconciles the problems which at first seem to arise from these. Some of the discrepancies contribute to character development. Delville claims that each voice or character in the novel presents a different way of dealing with loss. He compares especially the language used by Darl and Vardaman. He analyzes even the stylistic differences between Vardaman’s metaphoric language and Darl’s simile use, stating that this “reflects Darl’s awareness of the precariousness of Symbolic language.” He claims Darl is “aware of the distance between the two poles of the simile” which is why he is incapable of attaining “any ultimate certainty.” Delville also compares Addie’s narrative section, in which she expresses that words just confine and restrict the natural fluidity of life, with Darl’s use of language. Addie articulates that words, such as Anse’s name, fossilize the life of a person and attempt to contain and constrict their life too much. Delville claims that Darl is the most omniscient narrator in the novel, and that his instability contributes to the chaotic style and theme of detachment. [MU07]

Fowler, Doreen. "Matricide and the Mother’s Revenge: As I Lay Dying." The Faulkner Journal 4.1 and 4.2 (1988-1989): 113-125. [ZSR]
  • Fowler believes the title “As I Lay Dying” alludes to the death of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra- the first play of Aeschylus’s trilogy, the Oresteia. Fowler sees Clytemnestra in Addie Bundren, a murdered mother demanding revenge. It is believed that the murder of the mother came before Freud’s “murder of the father,” and, hence, is the founding myth of Western culture. To create an identity separate from the mother, the child must murder its mother. Addie rebels against the patriarchal order calling for her death, rejecting her father, becoming materialistic, and takes on an imaginary state when alive. The novel is an attempt for patriarchal law to de-materialize the world of matriarchal order, but nature prevents it. Addie hates language as it looks to replace the unity between mother and child, where words substitute for absent references. As with language, a child replaces the unity it had with its mother with a proper substitute: Vardaman (fish), Jewel (horse), and Cash (coffin). Addie’s revenge is to “represence” the world through materialism and her body. When crossing the flooded river, Cash, Darl, and Jewel enter the water with Addie, symbolizing the original formlessness of the womb, with the rope uniting them symbolizing the umbilical cord. The fast-moving log acts as father’s law, knocking down the cart and cutting the cord between the men and mother. Cash acts as a father, attempting to cut both Darl and Jewel lose from the mother, but acting like a son and staying with Addie. Jewel ignores father’s law and continues to acts like a son, getting the coffin to the bank quickly. While Jewel returns with Addie, and Cash with the horse, Darl comes up empty-handed and has no mother to deny to maintain father’s law. When Darl tries to take possession of Addie by setting the barn on fire, Jewel again breaks father’s law and saves her. Darl is shown to be dangerous to the patriarchic world as he represents a loss of boundaries, and is denied and expelled from the world of matter. When Addie is finally in the ground and has been renounced by the patriarchic world, her revenge has cut down Darl. The family continues to look for substitutes to replace the child-mother unity, but only find less appealing substitutes. [AKM Spring 2008]

Franklin, Rosemary. "Animal Magnetism in As I Lay Dying." American Quarterly 18.1 (1966): 24-34. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Franklin discusses the odd logic and seeming clairvoyance of the Bundren family in terms of animal magnetism. Often associated with American literature, this pseudoscience consisted of the belief that inherent in each being were magnetic vapors that could be channeled to control vital fluids in the body. Its applications were primarily medical; however, it also implied the possibility of mind-reading. Franklin asserts that animal magnetism is essential to understanding As I Lay Dying, particularly Cash’s opening monologue, where he justifies the necessity of a beveled coffin for his mother. While Newtonian physics renders this passage humorous, animal magnetism provides justification. Franklin also establishes precedent for Cash to be familiar with animal magnetism from a historical standpoint. After deciphering this cryptic monologue with detailed analysis, the concept of animal magnetism is expanded to explain the clairvoyant nature of the Bundrens, particularly Cash and Darl. Franklin points out specifically Cash’s ability to communicate with his mother without speaking and Darl’s ability to discover his kin’s secrets without any evidence. Darl also seems able to see action occurring through opaque barriers, such as when Jewel saves his mother from the burning barn, and at great distances, like when his mother dies. Franklin points out clairvoyant qualities in the other family members; however, she admits that their abilities are nowhere near as pronounced. Analysis of this cryptic novel using animal magnetism sheds light upon many of its mysteries that would. [DB07]

Gault, Cinda. "The Two Addies: Maternity and Language in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Alice Munro's Lives of Girls and Women." American Review of Canadian Studies 36.3 (2006): 440-457. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 25 March 2008.
  • In this article, Cinda Gault compares the two Addies in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women. In both novels there is a mother named Addie, a daughter named Del(l), and a focus on the relationship between maternity and language. The Addies in both novels have hopes of finding a life beyond the farm they live on, and both have sexually active teenage daughters named Del(l). Gault says that Faulkner’s use of the corpse metaphor with Addie Bundren emphasizes the physical constraints in her life, and Munro’s use of the clown metaphor with Addie Jordan emphasizes the psychological pressures in her life. Gault also points out the differences in the two texts. The two stories were written and published in two totally different cultural, social and historical times, As I Lay Dying in the United States in 1930 and Lives of Girls and Women in Canada in 1972. Another major difference is the gender of the authors, which Gault suggests gives the two novels separate ideas on motherhood. Faulkner’s story addresses motherhood “outside the bounds of personal identification,” while Munro’s story “reveals the loving mother from the inside…through retrospective identification.” Gault says that Addie Bundren is portrayed as a “deceptively confined corpse,” while Addie Jordan a “deceptively liberated clown.” Both characters experience a sense of confinement through her association with motherhood and language. Gault concludes by saying, “Motherhood is a dilemma that neither daughter solves by the end of her story.” [LEW08]

Hays, Elizabeth. "Tension between Darl and Jewel (William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying)." The Southern Literary Journal 24.2 (Spring 1992): 49-60. A89269684&docType=GALE. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 25 April 2008.
  • Elizabeth Hays delineates the shift in roles and the rivalry of Jewel and Darl after Addie’s death in Faulkner’s As I lay Dying. In order to ground her work in literature, the author first mentions the work of Stephen Ross who explored the changes in punctuation, font, spacing and other syntactically anomalies present in As I lay Dying. Hays argues that the syntactical devices were used to heighten the tension between Darl and Jewel throughout the novel. She believes that Darl’s antagonism towards Jewel is evidenced by the fact that Darl references Jewel as “he,” the spacing and italics are more prevalent in sections where Jewel and Darl are interacting, and Darl’s constant preoccupation with Jewel throughout the novel. Hays discusses all the references Darl makes to Jewel and the increased rivalry between Jewel and Darl during the burial procession. Out of the fifteen monologues of Darl, Hays notes that twelve feature Jewel in the last paragraph even when the rest of the monologue directs attention to another character. Hays then catalogued all of the occasions when Darl undermines Jewel and indicates that Addie’s lack of affection for Darl may have been the main cause. Hays attributes Darl’s ultimate insanity to his obsession with Addie’s rejection and his inability to stop the Jefferson burial. [KG08]

Hewson, Marc. "'My Children Were of Me Alone': Maternal Influence in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." Mississippi Quarterly 53.4 (2000): 551-567. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, critic Marc Hewson argues that the role of Addie Bundren in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is not a negative one, but rather she acts as an active, positive influence on her children and a leader in contesting the concept of patriarchy in the novel. Hewson states that Addie’s intuition as a mother renders within her an undeniable sense of affection for all of her children. She also instills within each of them the inadequacy of language in expressing this love. In contrast to her husband, Anse, Addie is a woman of action rather than words, and although she dies at the beginning of the novel, her presence continues to act as the core for the story (considering the reasoning behind the journey to Jefferson spurs from Addie’s death). According to Hewson, Faulkner creates a distinct dichotomy between masculine and feminine outlooks on life, as portrayed in the relationship between Addie and Anse. Whereas Anse lives a stagnant life based only on preparing himself for death, Addie makes connections with each of children to escape Anse’s attitude towards their existences. The article goes on to discuss the specific role Addie plays in the life of each of her sons. While Vardamann shares with his mother the inability to command language, Jewel shares with her the idea that love is shown through doing rather than saying. Jewel shares the same “gruff, almost abusive” love with Addie as he does with his horse, conveying that his love is true although unconventional. Darl, on the other hand, is separated from his mother by his ability to articulate his feelings in a seemingly poetic manner; however, Darl is also bonded to Addie in his connection with nature and the land outside the house in which they are both seemingly attached to. This connection to the land leads Darl away from his father’s patriarchic teachings and brings him closer to Addie’s. Hewson sums up the article by saying that Addie is the “blood that boils through the land,” and her role as a mother in the novel is essentially the only thing that gave reason to her existence. Because this connection was so significant in the lives’ of her sons, her maternity carries the story on after her death. [AR07]

Hewson, Marc. "'My Children Were of Me Alone': Maternal Influence in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." Mississippi Quarterly 53.4 (2000): 551-567. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Marc Hewson argues that the role of Addie Bundren in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is positive rather than negative. Even in death, she is the impetus for the journey to Jefferson has an active influence on her children. Addie’s lack of direct speech only emphasizes her believe in the inadequacy of language to express her love as a mother. Hewson draws a male and female dichotomy and believes Addie to be leader in contesting the concept of patriarchy in the novel. Unlike Anse, she is a woman of action rather than words. Whereas Anse lives a stagnant life based only on preparing himself for death, Addie makes connections with each of children to escape Anse’s attitude towards their existences. Hewson continues to discuss the specific role Addie plays in the life of each of her sons. While Vardamann shares with his mother the inability to command language, Jewel shares with her the idea that love is shown through doing rather than saying. Jewel shares the same “gruff, almost abusive” love with Addie as he does with his horse, conveying that his love is true although unconventional. Similarly, Cash’s carpentry is a “silent testament of his love” for Addie. Darl, on the other hand, is the most expressive speaker of the novel and is thus separated from his mother by her mistrust in language. However, Hewson notes that Darl is also bonded to Addie in his connection with nature and the land; his connection leads Darl away from his father’s patriarchic teachings and brings him closer to Addie’s. Hewson concludes the article by saying that Addie is “lives on through the figures of her children” (567). It is her motivation to teach them to “outwit and outlast” (567) the suppressing and unmoving patriarchic identity which keeps her alive. [MDL]

Hustis, Harriet. “Masculinity as/in comic performance in As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury.” The Faulkner Journal. 15.2 (2000): 107-125. Proquest. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 8 April 2008.
  • Hustis argues that Faulkner’s construction of masculinity relies heavily on humor. He notes that Faulkner’s most humorous characters are often those that are most anxiously or insistently masculine. In particular, he examines Jason Compson (The Sound and the Fury) and Anse Bundren (As I Lay Dying). He illustrates the comic motif that exists between these characters and the ideas of “work” and “sweat”—two concepts that are traditionally associated with masculinity. There is inherent comedy in both characters as they falsely align themselves with these masculine motifs and feel compelled to explain why they have no concrete evidence of either. He argues, by citing Freud on several occasions, that humor can “candy-coat otherwise unacceptable or repugnant assumptions” (3). Jason’s humor is both hostile and obscene as it is designed to objectify women. For example, his work is constantly thwarted by the “stupid” and/or nymphomaniacal “bitches” who surround him. While Anse’s humor is less hostile, it is strikingly similar and the laughter of the reader is mirrored by the amusement of the community. Hustis argues that most readers and critics do not want to spoils Faulkner’s comic characterizations by criticizing the “masculinity” on which they are based. Finally, he notes that Jason’s and Anse’s interior monologues work to articulate and cement bonds with other men. He cites the sheriff’s refusal to assist Jason as a crucial moment in the novel because it represents the disruption of the comic male bond. [JS08]

Justus, James H. "Hemingway and Faulkner: Vision and Repudiation." Kenyon Review 7.4 (1985): 1-13. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, James H. Justus compares the unlikely similarities between the two most well-known American authors, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner. The article starts by giving an overview of Hemingway’s style and the motives and themes of each book. Then Justus delves into how both authors’ works were met with less than warm receptions and contemplated the complex state of humans. From there Justus writes about Faulkner’s different books, and the central ideas of each. He talks about Faulkner’s “dark vision” (Justus 10). The main comparison between the two comes from the economical form found in all of Hemingway’s works, and that found specifically in As I Lay Dying. Justus writes that this concise form has little effect on the way that the reader experiences the novel. He also writes about how both authors use main characters that are detached from life, for instance Addie Bundren in As I Lay Dying, and Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises. Each novel also showcases an ironic sense of humor. Though both authors wrote things that may not seem appealing to readers, they rescue it with their form and the “cultivation of their art” (Justus 14). Even though both authors had a negative outlook on life, neither was “paralyzed by it, and their work was able to flourish in spite of it. [SP07]

Kerr, Elizabeth M. "As I Lay Dying as Ironic Quest." Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 3.1 (1962): 5-19. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In her article “As I Lay Dying As Ironic Quest”, Elizabeth Kerr takes an ironic look at the complex journey that the Bundren family takes to bury Addie. The author first directs us towards a quote by Walter Slatoff; “one is far from sure what the book is chiefly about, and above all one is uncertain to what extent one has been watching an epic tragedy or farce.” This is a good summation of the complexity of the novel by Faulkner. Kerr starts out by explaining that the journey itself is ironic. On the surface it seems like it is a simple trip to bury Addie however each individual character has their own selfish motive for the voyage. Kerr goes on to breakdown each character and their ironic qualities. For example, Anse is the character who agrees to carry out Addie’s dying request, an unselfish act, however Anse is the one character who doesn’t have to sacrifice anything for this to occur. Kerr also divulges into the concept of birth and death along with the romantic cycle. She goes on to explain that the most ironic part of this book filled with irony, is the actual burial of Addie. Typically the climax of journey story is when the goal is reached, however the actual burial event is not even mentioned. [SB spring 08]

Lester, Cheryl. "As They Lay Dying: Rural Depopulation and Social Dislocation as a Structure of Feeling." Faulkner Journal 21.1/2 (2005/2006): 28-50. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Cheryl Lester discusses how William Faulkner demonstrates the historical phenomenon of social-spatial dislocation of rural, white southerners in the Bundren family’s journey to bury the matriarch Addie, in the novel, As I Lay Dying. An important aspect of this journey is articulated with the concept of “structure of feeling” or something that is a lived and felt effect in all aspects of one’s life; and in the case of the Bundren’s it is resistance to change. Their journey from the country to Jefferson to bury Addie represents their transition from country to town, and thus their own changing social identities. However, the Bundren’s have a difficult time of accepting their new social identity as the inferior, poor, white, uneducated country Southerner and the fact they are often looked down upon with disdain by the townsfolk instead of receiving help, which was the make-up of their old, rural relationships. The river crossing is an exemplary example because it symbolizes a structure of upheaval, and the sacrifices that the Bundren family had to make in order to complete the transition from country to town, as shown by the death of the mules, and the injuring of Cash’s leg. In addition, another part of their changing social identity is their increasing relations to the blacks and how both poor white and the blacks in their shared inferiority to the white bourgeois elite, which Faulkner was a member of, and their continual conflict in the attempt to ascend up the social ladder. At the close of the novel, the Bundren family tries to return to their old lifestyle by dismissing all reminders of their social inferiority, by shipping off Darl to a mental institution and burying Addie. However, they are unable to escape their new level of social inferiority because in order to settle his debts and acquire his new teeth, Anse marries a woman from town. Thus, in the end the Bundren family reluctantly accepts their new place within the social scheme. [SEA07]

Lowe, John. "The Fraternal Fury of the Falkners and the Bundrens." Mississippi Quarterly 54.4 (2001): 595-624. Academic Search Premier.
  • Lowe’s article explores the theme of fraternity that exists between the Bundren brothers in As I Lay Dying. Lowe suggests that fraternity not only applies to the brotherly aspect of the novel, but also interlaces throughout as a metaphor for the civil war, race, and American identity. Lowe believes that this theme was driven by Faulkner’s relationship with his own brothers, and how they related to other men, women, and each another. Lowe recognizes the role that birth-order plays in the development of brothers; for example, in As I Lay Dying, each brother occupies a different niche. Lowe asserts that the beauty of the novel is its inherent simplicity made complex through changing consciousness and a broad spectrum of “grief, loss, hope, and anguish.” (606) The crux of the novel’s struggle exists between Darl, Jewel, and Cash, though birth order is Cash, Darl, then Jewel. The basis of the struggle is between Darl and Jewel, with Cash as judge. Though Addie brought them into the world, they are left to fight for their individual identities. Lowe references the circle image of the family, which parallels the full circle realization at the end of the novel, with the familial configuration being restored. Furthermore, Lowe identifies the lack of male sexuality within the novel, attributing it to the closeness each brother felt to Addie, thus serving the purpose of the circle as a unifier and a reference to the family’s journey. Lowe identifies each relationship within the family and the struggle between each pair. The author believes that the novel’s ending reflects Faulkner’s own family dynamic. Ultimately, Darl’s banishment makes it seemingly clear that while birth order dictates much of role determination within families, it is impossible to avoid ambiguity, shifting, and ultimately, fraternal fury. [ES - Spring 2008]

Melebeck, Paul. "'Just a Shape to Fill a Lack': Receptacles in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." English Studies 64.5 (1983): 447-451. Academic Search Premier. 24 Apr. 2008.
  • In this article, Melebeck discusses the literal and symbolic use of vessels or containers throughout Light in August. The first vessel that Melebeck analyzes is Addie Bundren’s coffin. Ironically, Melebeck argues that Addie never finds true independence or breaks free of her trapped life with Anse until she is placed in the coffin; this container becomes the means for allowing her to go back to her roots in Jefferson. Also, Melebeck states, “In a way, the coffin is much more alive than she has ever been allowed to be” (448). Throughout the journey to Jefferson, the coffin seems to take a life of its own, and the members of the Burden family refer to this container as “her” rather than “it.” Melebeck also believes that the placement of Addie’s body inside the coffin is important. Her body is reversed to accommodate her voluminous wedding gown. Here, this placement further enhances Addie’s reversal of roles once she has died. Other receptacles are used in Light in August as well. During her only monologue of the novel, Addie envisions Anse’s name as a vessel. He is the slow-moving liquid molasses inside the vessel. Like the molasses, Addie’s life with Anse is slow-moving and stagnant. The last receptacle that Melebeck discusses is that of Dewey Dell. Dewey Dell becomes a container holding her unborn child. She also refers to herself and Doc Peabody as being a “tub full of guts” in which there is no room left for anything else. [EY Spring 08]

Middleton, David. "Faulkner's Folklore in As I Lay Dying: An Old Motif in a New Manner." Studies in the Novel 9.1 (1977): 46-53. Academic Search Premier. 26 Apr. 2008.
  • In this article Middleton examines the way that Faulkner uses old folktale motifs and inverts them or twists them around in his novel As I Lay Dying. He outlines 5 different motifs that were used in old folktales, including that which he says is the most important for our novel, that of the “mourning husband.” He contends that, while Anse is hardly a compassionate and emotional man, this motif speaks of him. However, what Middleton argues is that Faulkner took this motif and inverted it, citing a sort of competition for dominance between Addie and Anse, even after she dies; he defends this claim by saying that Addie's request for burial in Jefferson is simply a play in that competition. The article first outlines the ways that the novel follows the motif directly: the most important and obvious similarity is that Addie is dead, and Anse still has some sort of connection to her, whether spiritually or otherwise. He then says that Faulkner inverts the motifs and points to several examples. One is that Addie is obsessed with her own death; Middleton cites the coffin episode and others, showing that she is the opposite of a prototypical mother in folklore tales, one who gives and cares about life. Middleton goes on to say that it is the fact that Anse is not an emotional man, not truly grieving in a traditional sense, which shows us just how much Faulkner has inverted traditional folktale motifs and themes. He concludes by showing again that Addie is “physically dead,” yet that doesn't have the usual effect on the “morally dead” Anse. [AP 2008]

O'Donnell, Patrick. "The Spectral Road: Metaphors of Transference in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." Papers on Language & Literature 20.1 (1984): 60-79. Academic Search Premier
  • In his article, O’Donnell explores Faulkner’s use of metaphors in As I Lay Dying, asserting that each metaphor surrounding the Bundren family journey suggests both ambiguity and clarity. O’Donnell first highlights the significance of the structure of the story—while it is seemingly disjointed (the story unfolds based on fifty-nine monologues from fifteen speakers), each of the fifteen voices is concerned with a common, unifying event—Addie’s burial. O’Donnell then considers two prominent symbols—the road and the river. For the Bundrens, the road represents “a sign of linkage and connection” as it “joins and binds” (65). The road is a precise, predictable path leading to Addie’s burial. The image of the river, though, “threatens to obliterate pathways and bridges between points,” bringing a certain ambiguity to an otherwise straightforward journey (68). Due in part to the river, the road which runs straight to Jefferson is, in reality, “paradoxically roundabout” (69). O’Donnell then proposes that Darl himself demonstrates this conflict between cohesion and chaos. While Darl is externally obsessed with adhering to the straight path toward the cemetery, his internal state is one of madness and disorder. Lastly O’Donnell establishes the significance of the coffin itself, arguing that the coffin is ironically a discrete “shell” enveloping nothingness, and stressing Faulkner’s description of the coffin as “just a shape to fill a lack” (Faulkner, qtd. in O’Donnell 73). O’Donnell concludes his article by maintaining that through As I Lay Dying, Faulkner speaks to both the discreteness of existence, as well as to its “arbitrariness” and “ceaseless movement” (71). [ELR 08]

Palliser, Charles. "Fate and Madness: The Determinist Vision of Darl Bundren." American Literature 49.4 (1978): 619-633. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Palliser discusses Darl Bundren’s mental state, examining whether he is insane, clairvoyant, or both. It is not clear whether or not Faulkner wanted the character to come across as supernaturally gifted. Many commentators believe that Darl is clairvoyant. Palliser states that As I Lay Dying is centered on Darl’s determinist vision. The reader searches for explanations about Darl’s madness and apparent clairvoyance throughout the novel. It is important to view this through the lens of the religious beliefs of their society, since Faulkner’s characters ascribe to Southern Baptist beliefs with an emphasis on Calvinism. Palliser notes that Darl’s “clairvoyance” could simply be the result of guesswork. His remarks are based on knowledge from the past. Darl’s purported clairvoyance can be divided into three kinds of supernatural perception: prophecy, telepathy, and “second sight.” Darl always correctly predicts the future, but again Palliser highlights that this could all be based on previous knowledge about his family. It seems clear that Faulkner did not mean to endow Darl Bundren with supernatural insight. Darl has two principal convictions; first that actions are predetermined by what happened already, and second, that there is no definite difference between life and death. It is evident throughout his point of view that Darl does not believe in free will; he thinks choice is merely an illusion. Faulkner chooses to leave open the question as to whether Darl’s insanity comes from his determinist vision or causes it; however, either way the two are interrelated. [OB07]

Palliser, Charles. "Predestination and Freedom in As I Lay Dying." American Literature 58.4 (1986): 557-573. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In this article, Charles Palliser seeks to expand on the often-explored opposition in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying between those characters who only believe in words (such as Anse, Cora, and Whitfield) and those who only believe in deeds (Cash, Jewel and Addie. He agrees that this contrast exists, but he stresses that the opposition between those who believe in predestination and those who do not is even more significant. Using this theory as a starting point, he compares the characters of Darl (who wholeheartedly believes in and accepts predetermination) and Addie (who rebels against her fate). Darl’s clairvoyance, for instance, can really just be attributed to his believe in predetermination, because he sees that his family members are bound to act in a certain way, and predicts accordingly. Addie, on the other hand, attempts to cast off the confines of predetermination by committing adultery with the minister Whitfield, in the ultimate act of defiance towards both God and her husband. Palliser argues that, ironically, it is Addie’s adultery that actually leads to Darl’s barn burning, through the personality he developed after his mothers rejection, the enmity that developed between him and his brothers, Addie’s vengeful desire to be buried in Jefferson, and the funeral journey itself. In his one break from adherence to destiny, Darl burns the barn in an attempt to undue to continuing damage his mother has done, but his belief about his own lack of free will remains true and he cannot break the cycle. [CGN07]

Palliser, Charles. "Predestination and Freedom in As I Lay Dying." American Literature 58.4 (1986): 557-573. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 20 Apr 2008.
  • Palliser explains in this article how Addie and Darl are the only characters to truly accept the deterministic viewpoint that all the other characters preach. He argues that to see Darl as clairvoyant and therefore insane is to “misread the novel.” He explains that Darl’s view of the world is that he has no control over what’s going on in his life: that everything that has happened or will happen is already laid out. While it may make him seem insane to accept that viewpoint, this is one of the central points Faulkner is trying to make. “One of Faulkner’s intentions is to put in play the question of whether such an outlook is more or less sane than the conventional one.” Palliser also shows how Addie accepts this viewpoint as well, but unlike Darl, she tries to fight against it by having the affair. This act goes beyond just setting into motion a chain of events that eventually leads Darl to burn down the barn, but also leads to Darl’s deterministic viewpoint. Palliser states that “For although both of them see predestination as robbing human beings of freedom of will, Darl accepts this as inevitable while Addie struggles against it. Her adultery, I will argue, is therefore a blasphemous and defiant action by which she seeks to thwart Providence and thereby assert her freedom and individuality.” He states that the final irony is that the other Bundrens are unaware of this dimension where these characters have lived, suffered, and finally died. [SB08]

Pettey, Homer B. "Perception and the Destruction of Being in As I Lay Dying." Faulkner Journal 19.1 (2003): 27-46. Academic Search Premier.
In this article Pettey examines influences in Faulkner’s life, and how those can be seen in the actions of characters in As I Lay Dying. Particularly Pettey focuses on the modernist perceptual theories that Faulkner expressed his affection for in letters to friends and family. One theory which seems to have particular relevance to the novel argues that the mind tries to construct one’s reality based upon the perceptions and desired expectations one has about the world around him. Pettey builds on this theory to point out that one character in particular, Darl, seems to want to make his perceptions about his family and the world a reality. However, as much as he tries to connect the two, a gap exists between his wants and the world, which leads to his spiral towards a madness or mental instability. Further examples given by Pettey show how in several instances with his family, including Addie and Dewey Dell, Darl subconsciously must dehumanize them to be able to reconcile the differences that exist between his mind and reality. Of course, this is a blurred line for him, and his actions as a result draw confused and disapproving reactions from several of those around him, particularly Dewey Dell. By revealing an influence in Faulkner’s life that can be seen in his novel, readers receive a greater understanding of what the author is trying to accomplish with his work. [MLH Spring 08]

Pierce, Constance. "Being, Knowing, and Saying in the 'Addie' Section of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying." Twentieth Century Literature 26.3 (1980): 294-305. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • This essay attempts to identify the nature of Addie Bundren’s preoccupation with her own existence, her “Being” in other words, not being able to be articulated with mere words. The theory presented here, in the simplest terms, is: “a person’s Being, or what Addie seems to be longing for as Being, is what he is before he begins to think about, or objectify, it (Addie Bundren before she is aware of being Addie Bundren).” In this way it is physically impossible to be conscious of one’s own being because being cannot be objectified. At the same time, however, it can be argued that what is not perceived does not exist. So therefore, “Being” does not exist in any state, perceived or not. Addie runs into these complications and comes to the conclusion that there is no place for her to simply exist as herself. Addie’s problem with words is that they never, being simply arbitrary symbols, adequately describe experience, and since thoughts depend on the existence of words, thoughts are invalidated here as well. Addie longs for a place where she can be conscious of herself without beings spoiled by language, where thoughts and feelings can coexist, but those are lost in the moments and by their nature are impossible to notice. [EH07]

Rippetoe, Rita. "Unstained Shirt, Stained Character: Anse Bundren Reread." Mississippi Quarterly 54.3 (2001): 313-325. Academic Search Premier. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In her article entitled “Anse Bundren Reread,” critic Rita Rippetoe presents an alternative interpretation of Anse Bundren. Rippetoe contests the popularly accepted portrayal of an emasculated, decrepit, lazy old man and instead puts forth the theory that Anse Bundren is instead a hard working man who has fallen victim to a lifestyle of hard work and manual labor. Rippetoe does some historical research and deduces that based upon medical advances (or lack thereof) during Bundren’s time, it is very possible that the reason he doesn’t sweat, is not out of laziness but instead a side effect of a severe case of heatstroke suffered in early adulthood. Rippetoe then extrapolates that Bundren’s reluctance to sweat (which is interpreted to mean reluctance to work) is due to his fear of experiencing another episode of heatstroke and his cognizance than such an experience will more than likely be a precursor to death. Rippetoe then insinuates that Bundren may have even suffered from anhidrosis, a condition where the body doesn’t produce sweat. Based upon a relative lack of medical knowledge of the day, coupled with the potential that Dr. Peabody learned the medical trade through an apprenticeship and not through medical school, it is very possible that Bundren is not a free-rider but instead a victim of a lifetime of hard work. Rippetoe also hypothesizes that based upon Bundren’s lack of teeth it would have been very improbable that he was able to eat enough food to sustain himself. Therefore, Bundren’s inactivity and subsequent laziness are not signs of a lack of work ethic but are instead side effects of severe and undiagnosed medical conditions in Anse Bundren. [RM07]

Ross, Stephen M. "'Voice' in Narrative Texts: The Example of As I Lay Dying." PMLA 94.2 (1979): 300-310. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • In his article, “Voice in Narrative Texts: The Example of As I Lay Dying,” Stephen M. Ross investigates the use of voice through the perspective of the fifteen first person narratives in As I Lay Dying. Ross highlights the use of two distinct types of voice: mimetic and textual. Ross goes on to examine mimetic on three levels of discourse, the first being dialogue. Dialogue represents the narrative voice that is heard, so to speak, by other characters. Ross also concedes that dialogue can never completely be represented as it is being portrayed in an entirely new medium, the written, as opposed to the spoken, word. The second mimetic discourse examined by Ross is the use of narrative. However, Ross argues that the narrative discourse is inconsistent and implausible, and aids in the breaking down of the actual voice of the narrator. There remains a disconnect between what the narrator could portray as a person versus as a narrator. The third and final mimetic discourse is authorial discourse. This authorial discourse disturbs and confuses the relationship between creator and speaker. In these ways, Ross argues that As I Lay Dying both enhances and challenges mimetic voice. The second part of Ross’s article investigates textual voice. This voice carries out a function analogous to that of voice in speech. With textual voice there is no need for imagined speakers. Overall, Ross argues that voice is the significant aspect of linguistic portrayal. [MW07]

Sadler, David F. “The Second Mrs. Bundren: Another Look at the Ending of ‘As I Lay Dying.’” American Literature, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Mar., 1965): 65-69. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 28 April 2008.
  • Within the article, Sadler considers the implications of Anse’s remarriage in As I Lay Dying. Before forming the basis of his argument, the critic questions whether or not the two actually received a marriage license. He raises this issue only because of a lack of funds by both parties. After explaining the reasoning behind this idea, Sadler continues on to explain the symbolism of the new “Mrs. Bundren.” Both her appearance and manner suggest a calculating, materialistic approach to life, as opposed to Addie’s awareness of the darker, more foreboding implications of living. Her acceptance by the family as a replacement for Addie signifies the final death of their mother and wife, whose rapidly decreasing importance in the minds of the characters is shown by the brief mention of her burial. Furthermore, the Bundrens’ rejection of Addie’s view of life is evidenced by their turning over Darl to the authorities. The family is thus casting out the one remaining member who is capable of seeing fully the terrible side of life. He does not fit into the life of sensual gratification and escapism, symbolized by the new Mrs. Bundren’s gramophone, which the Bundrens have chosen. Sadler states that the ending of As I Lay Dying makes clear that the Bundrens have ultimately committed themselves to the pursuit of physical comfort. [KP - Spring 08]

Simon, John K. "What are You Laughing at, Darl? Madness and Humor in As I Lay Dying." College English 25.2 (1963): 104-110. JSTOR Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 28 April 2008.
In John K. Simon’s article, “What are you laughing at Darl? – Madness in Humor in As I Lay Dying,” the author analyses the importance of Darl as a pivotal figure in the novel. Simon compares Darl’s madness to the madness of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He chooses to focus on two main points in his essay, the first being Darl’s reliability as a literary character, and the second being the importance of his madness to the finale of the novel. Simon asserts that the most alarming factor of Darl’s madness is his the shift of himself from first person to third person. He comments that while other factors such as repetition, satire, and over-observation of certain qualities are also odd, Darl has exhibited these qualities throughout the novel and are not indicative of his madness. Darl seems to have a divide between what Simon calls the “Darl of action and event” and the “Darl of inner consciousness” (104). These two divisions can be demonstrated in the final monologue, when Darl refers to himself in the first person when using verbs of knowledge or consciousness such as “I know” or “I said.” However, when Darl is speaking about his actions, he always refers to himself in the third person. Simon also points out that Darl is jealous of Jewel’s unconsciousness and how he is unaware of himself. Darl is constantly thinking about what he is and who he is, which is manifested when he speaks about himself in the third person. Darl’s madness at the end of the novel is caused by innate character flaws and insecurity about himself. [JH - Spring 08]

Simon, John K. "What are You Laughing at, Darl? Madness and Humor in As I Lay Dying." College English 25.2 (1963): 104-110. JSTOR.

  • Simon tries to recognize Darl as something other than a mad character with a lack of moral clarity, referencing this controversial equivalent to the Shakespearian question, ‘Is Hamlet mad?” In this sense, the question lies ‘Is Darl mad?” This draws on two questions, which are cited as ‘the consistency of Darl as a literary creation; and the relevance of his madness to the conclusion of As I lay dying” (104). Simon recognizes Darl as one of the novel’s few conscious characters, one that distinguishes the differences between “I and he” (109) Darl’s apparent madness stems from struggles associated with this consciousness. For instance, in one example Simon explains, “Darl is jealous of Jewel’s unconsciousness, of his lack of self-awareness.”(105)Throughout his essay, Simon delves through the issue of subconscious and consciousness understanding of reality. Simon asserts that Darl’s struggle between threes two understandings is what makes the reader relate to most and therefore Darl is not entirely ‘mad’. [EAM- Spring 08]

Slaughter, Carolyn Norman. "As I Lay Dying: Demise of Vision." American Literature 61.1 (1989): 16-30. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • Carolyn Norma Slaughter’s article addresses the idea of language and meaning in the novel, with particular focus on Addie’s view of these themes. She points out that the story revolves around Addie, whose death is the reason for the novel, and to whom the central chapter of the book is given. Because of this, it’s important to note her ideas about words and what they mean. Slaughter discusses Addie’s view of the discrepancy between saying and doing and the fact that she finds more value in doing things, instead of simply saying words. She sees words as arbitrary and empty, particularly in the case of names for her children, because they don’t make her think of any actual meaning. Because of this, Addie believes that many words have lost their connection with action or life, which makes them useless. However, this is not what her community believes and teaches, so in order to connect with people, her children in particular, she needs words. Slaughter concludes that with the erasure of Addie and Darl, the two active, “doing” people in the novel, the center and action of the story are also lost by the end. [CB07]

Tebbetts, Terrell L. "Disinterring Daddy: Family Linen's Reply to As I Lay Dying."Southern Literary Journal. 38.2 (Spring 2006): 97-112. ProQuest. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 23 April 2008.
  • In “Disinterring Daddy: Family Linen’s Reply to As I Lay Dying,” Terrell L. Tebbetts discusses the relationship between Lee Smith’s Family Linen and Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. It serves as a response to an earlier article by Susie Paul Johnson that drew comparisons to the two. Tebbetts believe that the similarities between the two are vague and not as strong as Johnson stated. Though they both center on a family member’s death and have multiple narrators, this is the extent of their sameness. After examining many of the occurrences in Family Linen, we learn that the father of the family, Jewell Rife, has been an abusive and dominating patriarchal figure. Thus, his death is different from Addie Bundren’s since she was not hated in the same way. Though Addie failed at motherhood and Jewell failed at fatherhood, Jewell is much less of a sympathetic character and did not withdrawal from his family like she did. Instead, he used his masculine power in an aggressive and hurtful way. This causes the endings to be seen as completely different, though the actual the events are similar; Addie’s husband finding a new wife is dark and troubling for readers, while a new father figure for Jewell is seen as a happy and optimistic occurrence. Tebbetts finishes by saying that Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! may be a better comparison to Family Linen because of their similarities. [MCB 08]

Urgo, Joseph R. "William Faulkner and the Drama of Meaning: The Discovery of the Figurative in As I Lay Dying." South Atlantic Review. 53.2. (1988): 11-23. JSTOR. Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Winston-Salem, NC. 3 Dec 2007.
  • This article begins with Faulkner’s idea that his characters appear to be trapped by fate and his interest in “how they go under:” Faulkner believes people become trapped when they try to do more than they know how to do. Joseph Urgo claims that the production of “meaning” by Faulkner’s characters resembles an interior drama; formal plots, conflicts and structures of the novel seem to come second to the interior conflicts of signification. Faulkner has said that there exists a trio of oppositions which highlights intellectual as well as physical conflict. The first two conflicts, man versus himself and man versus other man, stem from a repeated denial of reality. The last conflict, man versus his surroundings and environment, is what Faulkner has said “forces people to go under.” Urgo continues to explain that the drama of meaning is often a result of human understanding of reality, which is not always established, but instead subject to change. As I Lay Dying poses the crucial question, “Is life meaningless?” He explains how each Bundren seems to possess a personal motive for going to Jefferson except Darl and Jewel, and how Addie Bundren is the “center” of the novel. Addie says that words are pointless, but what she is missing is the symbolic vitality of words. Urgo discusses in detail how Vardaman represents the symbolic and figurative, while Darl represents logic, and how Cash is in between the two. The author concludes with the idea that the human mind continually makes sense of the world through association and metaphors, creating the human drama of meaning. [EW07]

Vickery, Olga W, and Hoffman, Frederick J. Eds. William Faulkner: Three Decades of Criticism. Michigan: Michigan State University Press, 1960.
“Dimensions of Consciousness: As I Lay Dying.” By Olga W. Vickery
In this article Vickery explores the conscious of each individual character in As I Lay Dying. According to Vickery there are three levels of consciousness; sensation, reason and intuition. Distinctive to each character is how he or she responds to the events in the novel, which are expressed through words, action and contemplation (233). Vickery argues that Faulkner manipulates language and style to display each character’s overall level of consciousness. Each character’s conscious is formed in response to Addie and their relationship with her. Vickery states that a character may only achieve a state of resolved consciousness when he or she realizes, understands and accepts what Addie means to him or her. Vickery outlines the relationship of Addie and each of her children, arguing that each child’s level of consciousness and modes of response to her death and the journey they take depend on the circumstances of their birth (237). Vickery explains that when each character’s sections are read together the reader gains a sense of their relationship with Addie and its effect on that character’s consciousness. Alternatively, when one reads the sections in a conventional, consecutive manner, the plot and events of the novel are obtained. The article goes on to examine each character and his or her level of consciousness based on their relationship with Addie, and contends that Cash is “the one character in the novel who achieves his full humanity” ultimately allowing him to reach a resolved conscious that none of his siblings can (240). Vickery concludes by stating that readers cannot comprehend the “easy mastery” of Faulkner’s work unless they themselves become conscious of the relations of the Bundrens to Addie as well as the conjunction of humor and suffering present in the novel. [LSS Spring '08]

Hale, Dorothy J. "As I Lay Dying's Heterogeneous Discourse." NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 23.1 (1989): 5-23. JSTOR.
This article discusses Faulkner’s use of form throughout his novel As I Lay Dying. The “problem” with As I Lay Dying is that although the novel overtly appears to be an attempt at realism by using a stream of consciousness form in which the reader is thought to be subjected to direct mental quotations of each character, at times Faulkner utilizes diction and language either unexpected or unknown from the character. For example, in one of Dewey Dell’s chapters, a likely illiterate farm girl, incorporates the word “stertorous.” Hale argues, however, that Faulkner is indeed aware of these “mistakes” and intentionally includes them to create a hybrid literally form that is not in fact mimetic realism. Instead it is a form that utilizes language not as an agent for transparent communication but instead as a medium for distinguishing the realms of the private and public selves of the characters. Hale describes similar instances in Faulkner’s Soldier’s Pay and Mosquitoes in which his characters’ speaking voices are mimetically appropriate yet their internal voices are in a stylized, non-mimetic form thereby distinguishing the private self from the public self. In As I Lay Dying, Faulkner utilizes the mimetic stream of consciousness to represent what a character could say in the public sphere and nonmimetic vocabulary and tone to represent the unsayable inner thoughts of the character. The fact that characters think in words they cannot know shows that they know things they cannot say. The degree to in which a character’s internal language resembles his public dialogue establishes the degree to which the character has sacrificed his private self to the public realm. Hale continues by examining Anse, Addie, Darl and Cash’s use of these different forms of language and what they truly reveal about each of the characters individually. [KB-Spring08]