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As I Lay Dying: Freudian Theories of the Bundren Family


As I Lay Perishing: Freudian Theories of the Bundren Household

William Faulkner composed As I Lay Passing away in 1930, around the time when the theories of Sigmund Freud, the daddy of psychoanalysis, were getting appeal. In his story about the death of a mom, Addie, and her family’s response and grieving procedure, Faulkner adheres to a lot of Freud’s theories on defense mechanisms. According to Freud, “Challenges from the external environment and from our inner urges threaten us with stress and anxiety … The process that the ego (subconscious mind) utilizes to distort truth to secure itself are called defense reaction” (Friedman 39).

The family’s absence of a grieving process, fascination over burying Addie in Jefferson, and desire to get materialistic products all exemplify Freud’s defense mechanisms. Faulkner shows Freud’s theories of reaction development, justification, displacement, and sublimation through the reaction to Addie’s death and her family’s mourning process. Whitfield is the town minister who has an affair with Addie, which leads to his bastard child, Jewel. Whitfield exhibits Freud’s concept of response formation, a “defense mechanism that presses away threatening impulses by overemphasizing the opposite in one’s thoughts and actions” (Friedman 41).

Whitfield understood he was devoting a sin by having an affair, as adultery is clearly rejected in the bible, however he kept it secret and continued to preach the bible. When Whitfield hears that Addie is ill he confesses that he “woke to the enormity of my sin; I saw the real light at last, and I fell on my knees and admitted to God and asked His assistance and got it” (Faulkner 177). Whitfield describes that God told him to “fix to that house in which you have actually put a living lie … confess your sin aloud. However, by the time Whitfield reached the Bundrens’ house Addie had actually currently passed away and Whitfield decided to keep his secret, which is another act versus the bible because the bible teaches that one need to admit his sins. In his final act of reaction development Whitfield states a prayer as he leaves the Bundren home “God’s grace upon this home” (Faulkner 179). The act of continuing to preach even though Whitfield himself has actually sinned suggests a defense reaction according to Freudian theory. Another element of Freud’s defense mechanisms that Faulkner uses in his book is making use of justification.

There are a number of circumstances throughout the Bundrens’ journey where they act irrationally to satisfy Addie’s desire of being buried in Jefferson. According to Freud “justification is a mechanism including post hoc sensible descriptions for habits that were really driven by internal unconscious motives” (Friedman 49). The Bundrens did not even start their journey to Jefferson up until 10 days after Addie had passed away. The journey to Jefferson itself was unreasonable for the Bundrens to complete. Jefferson is far away, the bridge to arrive was flooded, and they are a bad family who must count on others to help them along their journey.

While Anse, Addie’s husband, does not seem mourning and does not discuss Addie’s death, we learn that “his mind is set on taking her to Jefferson,” in spite of cautions of rain and a flooded bridge (Faulkner 86). After waiting 10 days to begin the treacherous journey, the Bundrens still justified going to Jefferson to bury Addie. Tull explains that Anse “promised her” that she might be buried there which “she wanted it. She come from there. Her mind was set on it” (Faulkner 89). While it seems rational that a male would want to meet his wife’s passing away dream, the conditions of reaching Jefferson are beyond unreasonable.

Once they lastly reach Jefferson it becomes clear that Anse was justifying the journey to Jefferson as a way to get brand-new teeth and a better half. He even reveals “now I can get them teeth. That will be a comfort” as a defense reaction towards coping with the loss Addie. Anse is using Addie’s death as an excuse to go to Jefferson and get new teeth. Instead of grieve Addie’s death and bury her at her house, the Bundrens internally struggle with the loss of their mother and focus their attention on getting her to Jefferson so they can go to Jefferson themselves.

In Addie’s last passing away days her boy Money invested his time constructing her coffin right outside her window. According to Freudian concepts Cash was displacing his emotions about his mother passing away. Displacement is “a defense reaction in which the target of one’s unconscious fears or desires is shifted away from the real cause” (Friedman 47). In this case Money’s unconscious worries are of his moms health problem and approaching death and he is shifting his focus towards building her coffin rather of spending time with her or soothing her. Money’s fascination with constructing the coffin continues even after Addie ies. Money’s very first chapter of the unique carefully lists his thinking over the building of the casket. He explains “the animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the joints and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel.” While the construction of the casket might be an important contribution to Addie’s burial, Cash entirely consumes himself with thoughts of the casket instead of mourning his mom. Another among Addie’s kids likewise exemplifies displacement in reaction to his mom’s death. Vardaman factors that the doctor, Peabody, caused his mother’s death.

Vardaman cries “he kilt her. He kilt her” yet he displaces his anger towards Peabody’s horses exclaiming “you kilt my maw!” (Faulkner 54). Vardaman strikes the horses with a stick, roughly beating them. Freud would classify this habits as displacement due to the fact that Vardaman launches his feelings on innocent horses that could not have caused his mom’s death. Among the most popular defense reaction that Faulkner shows is the idea of sublimation. Lots of characters equate Addie’s death into other preoccupations such as buying new material goods or fulfilling personal gains.

The Bundrens as a family concentrate on bringing her body to Jefferson, Anse desires new teeth, Money desires a gramophone, Dewey Dell desires an abortion, and Jewel’s affection for his horse. According to Freudian theory “sublimation is the transforming of undesirable advises into favorable, socially acceptable inspirations” (Friedman 48). Faulkner uses sublimation in his character’s absence of mourning their loss and translation of the fear of their loss toward something less significant but concrete. Throughout the unique Dewey Dell conveys her stress and anxiety over her pregnancy.

She even confesses “when mother died I had to go beyond and outside of me and Lafe and Darl to grieve due to the fact that he could do so much for me and he don’t understand it” (Faulkner 59). Dewey Dell is unable to focus on anything, including her mother’s death, due to the fact that of her pregnancy and fascination over discovering a way to abort her baby. In this passage she questions Peabody’s capability to help her with the abortion. When they lastly reach Jefferson Dewey Dell rapidly discovers a physician to perform her abortion. She desperately explains to the pharmacy clerk “it’s the female trouble … I got the money” (Faulkner 243).

The Bundren household sublimates the loss of Addie by finishing a harmful and exhausting journey to approve Addie’s desire of being buried in Jefferson. Nevertheless, when the Bundrens reach Jefferson it becomes clear that they had ulterior, and selfish individual intentions for getting to Jefferson. When the treacherous journey to bury Addie is lastly completed Anse sublimates his relationship with Addie and her loss by purchasing new teeth and getting a brand-new partner. Money tells his brand-new spouse, “it’s Cash and Jewel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell,’ pa states, sort of hangdog and proud too, with his teeth and all, even if he wouldn’t look at us. Meet Mrs Bundren,’ he says,” (Faulkner 261). Anse rapidly replaces his better half and continues his life as if unaffected by the loss of Addie. He sublimates his loss with new teeth and a brand-new wife. Freudian studies of the unconscious mind became popular in the 1920s and 1930s when Faulkner was also gaining popularity as an author. It is possible that Faulkner’s stream of awareness writing was likewise influenced by Freud’s theories of the subconscious mind. While Faulkner supplies detailed insight into all of the character’s thoughts and feelings, none of the characters appear to be genuinely grieving the loss of Addie.

Rather, the Bundrens focus their attention toward moving her body to Jefferson, a challenging and impractical task that takes them around twenty days to finally bury her. The characters express numerous themes of defense reaction in dealing with their loss. They do disappoint genuine indications of missing out on Addie or grieving her. Rather they focus their attention on what to do with her body and other seemingly important matters. Faulkner was influenced by Freud’s concepts of response development, justification, displacement, and sublimation as a means for his characters to manage the loss of their spouse and mother.

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