As I Lay Passing Away by William Faulkner
Paragraph V: Assessment But my mom is a fish. Vernon seen it. He was there. “Jewel’s mom is a horse,” Darl stated. “Then mine can be a fish, can’t it, Darl?” I said. Jewel is my brother. “Then my own will have to be a horse, too,” I stated. “Why?” Darl said. “If pa is your pa, why does your ma have to be a horse just because Jewel’s is? “Why does it?” I stated. “Why does it, Darl?” Darl is my brother. “Then what is your ma, Darl?” I stated. “I have not got ere one,” Darl stated. “Due to the fact that if I had one, it is was.
And if it is was, it can’t be is. Can it?” “No,” I said. “Then I am not,” Darl said. “Am I?” “No,” I stated. I am. Darl is my brother. “But you are, Darl,” I stated. “I know it,” Darl said. “That’s why I am not is. Are is too many for one lady to foal.” (Faulker 101) The novel As I Lay Passing Away by William Faulkner, had many interesting paragraphs that catches the readers eye. Nevertheless, the above paragraph in between Vardaman and Darl disputing the matters of death and existence stops the reader and needs attention.
The above paragraph is a narrative paragraph. Vardaman’s association of his mom’s death with the fish’s death in the beginning seems to be a childish, illogical connection. This association, together with Darl’s linking of the question of existence to a matter of “was” versus “is,” allows these 2 uneducated characters to take on the highly complex matters of death and existence. The unusual nature of this exchange highlights the Bundrens’ failure to handle Addie’s death in a more logical way.
For Darl, language has a peculiar control over Addie’s presence: he believes that she can not be an “is,” or a thing that continues to exist, because she is a “was,” or a thing that no longer exists. For Vardaman, things that are similar to each other become interchangeable: he appoints the role of his mom to the fish, for example, due to the fact that the fish is dead, like Addie. These somewhat rational reactions to Addie’s death show that Darl and Vardaman, like the rest of their household, are not able to have a healthy psychological response to death.