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Flawed Relationships And Toxic Love In Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying’


In normal modernist style, William Faulkner experiments in his deal with a number of nontraditional stylistic and thematic characteristics, including brokenness, fragmentation, misery, pessimism, perception distortion, and the rejection of social standards. In his unique As I Lay Passing away, he focuses on a sense of alienation and separation, particularly within the Bundren household. Members of the Bundren household display various inefficient relationships with one another, with their lovers, and even with God. Examples of these relationships consist of couple, parent to child and sibling to sibling; in much of these cases, the Bundrens display seemingly violent affection toward each other.

Addie and Anse, the heads of the Bundren family, do not offer an example of the ideal marital relationship. In truth, this duo is the embodiment of a damaged communion. Each treats the other as more of a concern than somebody to rely on; both might even choose independence to the company of their partner. Their indifference toward one another begins as quickly as they are engaged, and for great factor. Addie’s decision to marry Anse takes place without much factor to consider. Upon realizing that he owns a little piece of residential or commercial property, wrongly believing that he is a hard employee with a “excellent sincere name,” Addie chooses to take him up on his deal; as she nonchalantly puts it: “So I took Anse” (Faulkner 171). Soon afterwards, however, suffering sets in. After bring to life Cash, Addie claims that her “aloneness” has been violated. Addie detests motherhood practically as much as she comes to abhor her lazy, worthless spouse. After finding that she was pregnant with Darl, Addie “thought that [she] would kill Anse,” she was so upset (172 ). Addie believed that Anse had actually tricked her into having another kid by his use of words. Making use of the word “love” was absolutely nothing more than a tool of adjustment in Addie’s eyes. From that point forward, he is dead to her. Anse’s “love” for Addie leads to the unhappiness that derives from sleep deprived motherhood. Even as a teacher, Addie dislikes the children; in reality, she delights in hating the kids and likes having the benefit to whip them.

Addie’s hatred for her hubby grows to the point that she lay awake during the night, alone in her self-pity, thinking, “Anse. Why Anse. Why are you Anse” (173 ). She longs to be rid of him and misses her innocence, in addition to the shape of her virgin body, both of which were intact prior to meeting him. At this juncture, once Anse had “passed away” to her, Addie makes the mindful choice to sin against God and her other half. Driven by her suffering, Addie finds herself sinning in the arms of the ordained priest, Whitfield. Addie falls deeply in love, for the first time in her life, with Whitfield. However the affair ends as unexpectedly as it began. The only remaining fragment of Addie’s broken heart can be found in the type of a 3rd baby boy, appropriately called Gem.

Though Addie distinctly mistreats her hubby, Anse’s regard for his other half is not much better. He sees his marriage more as a well thought-out business offer rather of a dedicated acknowledgement of love and commitment. Anse seeks out Addie for her looks and maybe a salary that would pay to his benefit. His proposal to Addie takes place without any additional understanding of who she is as a person; therefore, clearly, adoration and regard never ever had the opportunity to establish. As soon as Addie gets ill, Anse waits till it is too late prior to calling Physician Peabody, more worried with saving cash than his dying other half. Confused and annoyed, Peabody asks, “Why didn’t you send for me quicker?” and, upon hearing Anse’s explanation, exclaims, “Damn the cash. Did you ever become aware of me fretting a fellow prior to he was prepared to pay?” (44 ). Author of the short article “As I Lay Dying: Faulkner’s All in the Family,” Linda W. Wagner narrows in on Anse’s “non-action” as “parasitic mockery.” Wagner mentions that Anse is, ironically, able to sustain– lasting longer than the more active and enthusiastic– despite his laziness, indifference, and even carelessness (Wagner 73). Anse goes as far as selfishly claiming that his wife’s misery is simply the repercussion of “misfortune,” apparently lacking any sort of sympathy. Anse seems to believe this misfortune of his comes from living by a roadway “where bad luck prowling can discover it and come directly to my door, charging me taxes on top of it” (Faulkner 36). Upon Addie’s deathbed, Anse can not even discover it within himself to shed a tear, or reveal any sort of unhappiness for that matter. After awkwardly staring at his dead partner for a brief minute, he apathetically says, “God’s will be done. Now I can get them teeth” (52 ). Even the neighbors’ daughter, Kate Tull, acknowledges Anse’s absence of gratitude for his partner and forecasts that once Addie dies, “he’ll get another one prior to cotton-picking” (34 ). Though Anse may not outwardly dislike Addie as she does him, he does clearly do not have any sort of love for his spouse– dead or alive.

The Bundren grownups are not the only dysfunctional members of this family, however; the Bundren children likewise exhibit display screens of irregular affinities with each other. Instead of having actually bonded empathy for their siblings, they each demonstrate a form of hostility toward one or more other members of their family. Darl and Gem, for instance, rather certainly do not like each other. Darl’s distaste for his bro originates from the apparent understanding that Gem is their mother’s most beloved accomplishment. Darl’s jealously causes him to treat Jewel with distain. Totally mindful that his mother will pass away in their absence, Darl more or less forces Gem to accompany him on an objective for three dollars because, “I desire him to assist me load,” he states (28 ). Darl furthers his sibling’s discomfort by callously duplicating, “Jewel, do you understand that Addie Bundren is going to die? Addie Bundren is going to pass away?” (40 ). Wagner discusses that, “For Darl, his mother’s preference for Jewel is continual torture […] Gem’s anguish is Darl’s pleasure, cut off as he has been from Addie’s love by the taciturn younger kid. Darl lives in Gem’s feelings” (Wagner 75). Addie’s bad ethical attributes have actually been handed down and affect her children in more ways than one. Maybe if Addie had actually provided all of her children more attention and equality, they would not have actually grown to deal with each other with such bitterness.

Addie’s maladjusted nature trickles down to her naïve, teen child, Dewey Dell, whose relationship with Darl has its defects as well. Darl, with his uncannily clairvoyant capabilities, is especially in tune with Dewey Dell. After she sleeps with Lafe and conceives, Darl makes a point to in some way calmly inform Dewey Dell that he knows what occurred and is not pleased about it. In her own words, “I saw Darl and he understood. He stated he knew without the words like he informed me that ma is going to pass away without words […] and I stated ‘Are you going to eliminate him?’ […] which’s why I can talk with him with knowing with hating due to the fact that he understands” (Faulkner 27). Darl’s knowledge of his sibling’s circumstances triggers her to hate him. She is embarrassed and embarrassed of having conceived out of wedlock, particularly thinking about the era, for that reason Darl’s understanding is an additional problem for her to bear. She would rather withstand this problem unaccompanied; she even refuses to tell Lafe. Darl’s comprehension leaves Dewey Dell sensation exposed, naked even. She feels him seeing her, his eyes “swim [ming] to pin points. They begin at my feet and increase along my body to my face, and after that my dress is gone.” Dewey Dell becomes caused by her brother’s understanding to the point of having nightmares about him. She when dreams that she “rose and took the knife from the streaming fish still hissing and [she] killed Darl” (121 ). Plainly, Dewey Dell is so troubled by this twist of fate that she would prefer her own bro’s death to his awareness of her mistake.

Darl is not the only individual Dewey Dell seems to have an impractical relationship with, however. The vibrant in between Dewey Dell and her fan, Lafe, is likewise extremely uneasy and atypical. Initially, take into account the manner in which Dewey Dell develops. The act of sleeping with Lafe occurs impulsively and without verification of his love. Specifically for this time period, losing her virginity without concepts of love and under unwed circumstances was unusual. The decision, to her, looks like the next inevitable aspect of her day on the farm. She leaves the fate of this life-altering decision up to the present state of her everyday chore in the manner of a little woman playing “he loves me, he loves me not.” She says, “if it don’t indicate for me to do it the sack will not be complete and I will show up the next row however if the sack is complete, I can not assist it” (27 ). Therefore, once the sack was full, her decision was made for her. Her attitude towards the situation after the truth even more shows the immature quality of their relationship. The set lacks any sort of nearness or bond that permits Dewey Dell to be comfy with Lafe and the unfortunate outcome of events. She does not even want to inform Lafe about the infant and repeatedly remarks, “He could fix it all right, if he just would. And he don’t even understand it. He might do whatever for me if he just knowed it” (63 ). This quote validates that she wants nothing to do with Lafe’s infant, and yet she declines to discuss this repercussion to him even though she needs his assistance taking care of the scenario. The reality that she is not only ready however also desperate to be rid of the child within her further shows that she does not love Lafe; what occurred in between them was just an inescapable occurrence. Maybe, as she has grown up witnessing her moms and dads’ lack of affection toward one another, this concept of “settling” has been portrayed as acceptable to her. Additionally, since Addie has actually shown to be an insufficient mom to her kids, consisting of Dewey Dell, her child has not been exposed to normal motherly nature. For That Reason, Dewey Dell has no desire to raise a household of her own since of her mother’s own dislike for her provided role.

The unfavorable effect of Addie’s disposition on all of her kids appears; her indifference (toward all however Gem) leaves them feeling just as alone as she does even as they pine for her love. The repercussions of her favoring of Gem are most noticeable in Darl. The quiet bond that Gem and Addie share causes Darl to jealously treat Gem poorly. Wagner declares that “the character of Darl himself– in all his mockery, hurt understanding– is only more evidence of the power of Addie’s acts” (Wagner 75). Vardaman, as the youngest, is also deeply devastated by his mom’s death– mostly likely due to the fact that he was never given the opportunity to be liked by her. Now that she’s gone, he feels like he has actually failed in making her attention and will not have the ability to try any longer. After her death, his speech and actions wander towards insanity; Wagner describes, “The grief-crazed child parallels Gem because he can bear his mom’s death just through action […] In despair at this mother’s lack, Vardaman runs Peabody’s team, hides, strolls four miles to the Tulls’ house, opens his mother’s window so that she can feel the rain, and finally augurs holes into her coffin (and face) for the very same function” (Wagner 77). Throughout the novel, he confusingly denies his mom’s death, and at one point believes that she is a fish and her death was his obligation. Certainly, if Addie is dead then she has no requirement to “feel the rain,” but Vardaman rejects this possibility. After she passes, he says, “Then I start to weep. I can feel where the fish remained in the dust. It is cut up into pieces of not-fish now, not blood on my hands and overalls. Then it wasn’t so” (Faulkner 52). His confusion for what he has actually done to the fish and what has actually taken place to his mom is terrific. As time passes, the two occurrences mesh entirely into one, and a complete section of Vardaman’s only states, “My mother is a fish” (84 ). As the youngest child, Vardaman’s reaction to his mom’s death is the most drastic and dramatic. The remaining kids respond more subtly.

The relationship in between Dewey Dell and Addie is so insignificant that she hardly takes some time to grieve her mom’s death, taken in as she is by her own issue. Jewel, on the other hand, taken by his mom’s special love, grows to resemble her qualities most closely– particularly her subtle and silent character. Darl comments, “That’s why she named him Gem”; he was her most cherished things, equivalent to a precious gem (18 ). Both are violent, quiet, and have an unmentioned and deep love for the other. The destruction, grief and mental damage Addie has triggered her kids in her wake are direct repercussions of the method she treated them individually while alive. Addie is acutely familiar with the impacts of her actions and even remarks, “Cora Tull would tell me I was not a real mom,” and yet she does nothing to alter this fact. Her preferring of Jewel and overlook of the others produces a cycle of insecurity and hostility among her children, but Addie stays indifferent.

Various characters in the book likewise have fascinating perceptions of their relationship with God. Much of these relationships are egocentric and self-righteous while being judgmental of others. Take Addie, for example. Unlike most females of this era, she thinks that her cheating with Whitfield deserves the sins she commits. In fact, she shows no regret at all for her actions; Addie feels that she deserves this transgression. God and man owe her the right to be delighted with another guy. Her notion of sin is described by the following: “I would think of sin as I would consider the clothes we both wore on the planet’s face, of the circumspection needed since he was he and I was I […] I would think about him as thinking of me as dressed likewise in sin, he the more lovely considering that the garment he had exchanged for sin was sanctified” (174-175). Sin was something that needed to happen in order for her to make it through another day; sin was a lovely escape. “Sin is simply a matter of words,” she says, “to [people] redemption is simply words too” (168 ). She also acknowledges that the sin they dedicate together is heightened by the reality that he is an ordained minister; however, rather of feeling bad about this fact, Addie sees it as a turn-on. To her, this makes him all the more lovely because he is sacrificing his vows and lifestyle for her company. The truth that Whitfield consents to these relations is evidence that he too has an upsetting relationship with the God he purports to serve.

Anse, like his wife, makes no spiritual effort and does not hide this truth. He too believes that the world owes him something, in spite of his laziness and passiveness, and believes that the God must take care of him– specifically because He put him by the misfortune of a roadway. He considers himself to be a good man, commenting:

I have actually heard guys cuss their luck and right, for they were wicked guys. But I do not say it’s a curse on me, since I have actually done no incorrect to be cussed by. I am not spiritual, I reckon. However peace is in my heart: I understand it is. I have actually done things but neither much better nor worse than them that pretend otherlike, and I understand that Old Marster will take care of me as for ere a sparrow that falls. But it appears hard that a male in his requirement could be so flouted by a road (28 ).

His quote is filled with contradictions, first claiming he is not a sinful male then declaring he is a wicked male however he is no worse than other sinful guys that pretend they are not. Obviously, his ideas of right and incorrect, good and bad have become obscured throughout his lifetime.

The final, most intriguing aspect of the dysfunctional relationships within As I Lay Dying derives from Faulkner’s speculative blurring of the lines between what is thought about regular or not. Faulkner fits together the connotations of affectionate love and violent hatred to create some sort of violent love. Violence exists in a few of the less caring relationships too. The relationship between Addie and her precious Jewel involves this twisted paradox. Darl, always observant, comprehends his mom’s predisposition for Gem and notes “that’s why ma constantly whipped him and cuddled him more” (18 ). It would appear that if a mother loved one kid more than the rest, then that kid would not get as much reprimanding, but that does not apply here. Action of any kind was for the Bundrens an expression of their love for one another. Jewel at one point calmly wishes that “it would simply be me and her on a high hill and me rolling rocks down the hill at their faces, picking them up and tossing them down the hill faces and teeth and all by God” (15 ). Gem believes that sharing this violent act with his mom would be enjoyable and useful for the two, nearly as one would consider going to the park or getting ice cream with their parents: simply something that needs to occur to take everybody– and their torment– out of the picture.

Faulkner also demonstrates “violent love” through characters who might not even realize it. Vardaman all the best thinks that he is sweetly helping his mother by drilling holes in her coffin; however, the audience is entrusted to a gory vision of a dead women’s face being unwittingly destroyed. The imagery of dead Addie and Vardaman’s dead, bloody fish ends up being entangled together by the kid’s grief, expressing contradictions of love for his deceased mom and the violent, baffled destruction of his fish.

Finally, Dewey Dell’s scenario provides contradictions also. An act generally performed out of love and joy causes intense pain and suffering for Dewey Dell, both physically and mentally. She is so involved her concern that she has little time to think of anything or anybody else. Her infant, a symbol of unconditional love and love to most, is her leading source of strife; therefore, she plans to take care of this problem by having an abortion: “That’s what they imply by the womb of time: the pain and the despair of spreading bones, the difficult girdle in which lie the outraged entrails of events” (121 ).

William Faulkner, experimental and groundbreaking as a modernist author, has fun with the idea of brokenness and fragmentation by confronting the family system. Each member of the Bundren household has his or her own set of vices– especially against one another– within his unique As I Lay Dying. He defines concepts of inefficient relationships in between couple, parent and kid, sibling and sibling, and even God and man. In a number of these relationships, violence and sadism become very popular as means of destruction and, paradoxically, love.

Functions Cited

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text. New York: Vintage, 1990. Print.

Wagner, Linda W. “As I Lay Dying: Faulkner’s All in the Family.” Galileo. JSTOR: College Literature. 1974

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