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Reality From A Subjective Point Of View In As I Lay Dying


“It resembles it aint so much what a fellow does, however it the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it,” (Faulkner, 233). In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, an obvious inconsistency exists between death and birth and in between words and thoughts that eventually changes the way events are perceived. Peabody articulates that death does not take any one type but rather takes various types based on various viewpoints. He says, “I can keep in mind how when I was young I thought death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I understand it to be merely a function of the mind,” (44 ). This forms the viewpoint that relatively concrete occasions like birth, death and the life in between are not outright at all. Rather emotions shape them into distinct events which vary from individual to individual. Through the insights of his characters Faulkner also seems to suggest that words do not mean the same thing to everyone. Rather everyone’s unique perceptions give various significance to the very same words. This is another way in which truth, in this case the truth of language, differs. Ultimately, through numerous contradictions, through the primacy of the specific and through a divergence from anticipated psychological reactions, Faulkner relates his theory that truth is indefinite and that private understandings and emotions, not merely facts, shape reality.

Faulkner uses his characters as lorries to express the belief that truth and events are indefinite and are formed based upon emotions and specific viewpoints as much as on actual facts. Faulkner establishes this theme mostly around Darl’s presumed madness and the differing reactions to it. Darl has an extraordinary capability to notice his siblings’ individual feelings and to handle their personalities. Thus, his response to his own madness eerily simulates the responses of his brother or sisters. In his final appearance he declares, “Darl is our bro, our bro Darl. Our sibling Darl in a cage in Jackson where, his grimed hands lying light in the quiet interstices, watching out he lathers. ‘Yes yes yes,'” (254 ). Having a jarringly comparable reaction, Vardaman represents the impressionable masses of society as a whole. Young and innocent, Vardaman has no strong viewpoints of his own however rather handles the opinions of the majority around him. Vardaman perceives Darl’s madness in a much more black and white manner. He mentions rather merely; “Darl is my sibling. Darl went nuts,” (250 ). This lies in direct contrast to Cash’s far more philosophical response. For it stays Money who asserts most lucidly that, “It resembles it aint a lot what a fellow does, however it’s in the way the majority of folk is looking at him when he does it,” (233 ). He also declares that, “Often I aint so sho’ who’s got ere a right to say when a male is insane and when he aint. Often I think it aint none of us pure insane and aint none people pure sane up until the balance people talk him that-a-way,” (233 ). Therefore, he summarizes Faulkner’s belief that reality, in this case the reality of Darl’s madness, is only reality if one’s understandings deem it so. Otherwise truth becomes total falsity. Gem when again stands apart from the remainder of the household. He feels little regret, sorrow or remorse for Darl’s virtual imprisonment, saying to Darl straightforwardly, “You goddamn lying son of a bitch,” (213 ). These widely differing responses to Darl’s madness show that truth preserves no definite form but rather differs based on each individual’s feelings or perceptions.

Words, as used in As I Lay Dying, do seldom accurately reflect the impressions or the implications that the character attempts to convey through them. Therefore, the viewed accuracy of words diminishes and reality becomes more abstract. Words are guaranteed in their tangible form. Nevertheless, words attain suggesting only through the personal connotations that are connected to them. As Addie declares, “That was when I found out that words are no great; that words do not ever fit even what they are attempting to say at,” (171 ). Communication in between the characters appears most efficient when words are not used at all, further highlighting the ineffectiveness of words. For example, throughout the discussion in between Dewey Dell and Darl regarding her pregnancy, words are never ever spoken aloud. This nonverbal conversation not only seems more efficient in conveying its significance but Dewey Dell also reveals that had it been spoken aloud, she would not have actually thought it. This once again suggests the fallibility of words. Dewey Dell articulates, “It was then, and after that I saw Darl and he knew. He said he understood without words … and I understood he understood since if he had stated he knew with the words I would not have thought that he had actually been there and saw us,” (27 ). This evident ineffectiveness of words requires the reader to observe the uncertainty of occasions in life; occasions which are based on specific responses to a scenario instead of an accurate significance.

Each character’s various reaction to Addie’s death shows Faulkner’s principle of the primacy of the person. Their words show different actions hence proving that comparable words and comparable events have really diverse connotations. Vardaman’s failure to handle the truth of Addie’s death underscores his childish, often ignorant reaction, to several events. His response seems to be the one that is the most out of touch with real truth. He mumbles, “My mother is a fish,” (84) and, “It is cut up into pieces of not-fish now, not-blood on my hands and overalls,” (53 ). He also responds by denying the physical death of his mom by asserting, “My mother is not in package. My mother does not smell like that. My mother is a fish,” (196 ). While this appears ridiculous, its clarity appears if one observes it in a more philosophical manner. Undoubtedly, Addie does not lie in package, however rather only her body lies in package. The actual individual, her spirit, swam away down the river. He can not accept truth and thus his fantasy becomes his reality. He truly believes that his mother is a fish and therefore questions, “Where is ma Darl? … You never ever got her. You understand she is a fish however you let her escape,” (151 ). Darl’s response to Addie’s death lies in plain contrast to Vardaman’s when he asserts that, “Addie Bundren will not be. And Gem is, so Addie Bundren must be. And after that I should be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in an unusual room. Therefore if I am not cleared yet, I am is,” (81 ). Vardaman’s reaction seems a lot more philosophical and his response stays internalized. His failure to reveal his feelings in words enhances the primacy of the internal individual instead of the physical world. Anse reacts by denying her illness altogether when he says, “You lay you down and rest you, … I understood you are not ill. You are simply worn out,” (37 ). Finally, Cash has the most physical reaction to Addie’s death. He focuses exclusively on earthly issues such as his tools and on the mechanics of making the casket. Money proceeds to explain the building and construction of the casket, the physical method which he handled Addie’s death. He declares, “I made it on a bevel … It makes a neater task,” (82-3). He is the just one of the three boys who does not associate Addie with a fictional entity or animal. Darl associates Addie with “is was” (101) and he associates Gem’s mother with “a horse” (101 ). Lastly, Vardaman associates Addie with “a fish,” (84 ). Cash never ever enters this discussion and hence appears more in touch with truth than the other characters. These greatly different reactions stress the primacy of the individual over one particular truth through diverse responses to the same event.

The unpredictability of reality and the varying views of one occasion surface areas again in the notorious river crossing scene. The even-keeled Tull lays out the facts quite just, mentioning, “… Darl jumped out of the wagon and left Cash sitting there attempting to save it … the mules finally kicked it loose, it tried to find a minute like perhaps Cash would get the wagon back,” (152-4). He plays the role of the omniscient narrator, relating the story just utilizing the realities. This functions as a reference point for the narratives of the other characters, which are filled with emotion and discontinuity. The different characters’ accounts of the river crossing show the very same feelings that each character feels towards Addie’s death. Vardaman, the character least in touch with reality, continues to be unable to separate himself from the concept of his mom existing still as a fish. He stays focused upon the idea that Addie continues to live on Earth in a fish’s body. Money focuses completely on earthly things like the casket stating, “It wasn’t on balance. I informed them that if they desired it to tote and ride on a balance they would need to,” (165 ). Finally, Darl seems to handle the feelings of each character. He seems slow to act and ponder in his movements which shows his reaction to Addie’s death, sluggish to accept her death and deliberate in conquering it. The various accounts of the river crossing show the probability of differing views of one event, hence making the presence of a particular truth problematic.

A divergence from the normal feelings related to birth exists. Social norms determine that a birth is a delighted event. However, Addie and Dewey Dell show a divergence from truth since they feel that their aloneness has actually been violated by their unanticipated pregnancies. Therefore they feel anger rather of happiness. Cora represents the common, social stereotype when she emphasizes, “God gave you children to comfort your human lot and for a token of His own suffering and love, for in love you developed and bore them,” (166 ). Straight after Cora’s remarks come Addie and Dewey Dell’s sentiments of anger towards their kids. Their remarks belie the traditional stereotypes of birth because of their previous experiences and present situation. The pregnancy breaches her aloneness in Dewey Dell’s mind and she laments, “It’s since I am alone. If I might just feel it, it would be various, due to the fact that I would not be alone. But if I were not alone, everyone would understand … Then I could be all right alone,” (59 ). Addie’s sensations of infraction and anger mirror those of Dewey Dell. She testifies that, “When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by somebody who needed to have a word for it due to the fact that the one that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not,” (172 ). Her anger also resurfaces when she regrets, “I understood that it had been, not that my aloneness needed to be breached till Money came,” (172 ). Dewey Dell’s and Addie’s divergence from the typical sentiments of pleasure and joyfulness towards birth represents a more reflection of Faulkner’s philosophy that understandings and emotions shape events in life.

William Faulkner, in his novel As I Lay Dying reveals his belief that wildly various ideas, perceptions and feelings shape life and make it indefinite. His characters all provide different accounts of the same basic occasion. Eventually, the reader recognizes that an apparently concrete event is not concrete at all but rather fluid and ever changing due to the differing understandings of the characters included. Through Addie Bundren’s statement, “That was when I found out that words are no good; that words don’t ever fit even what they are attempting to state at,” (171 ), Faulkner likewise asserts that words have no meaning in their concrete, definite kind but that personal emotions, understandings, and experiences give them meaning. Even still, words stay indefinite and ever-changing in their significance. Faulkner seems to worry the significance of objectivity by emphasizing the diverse descriptions of one, singular event. He appears to say that it is difficult to specify life or reality because each human defines it for himself. Faulkner indicates that a male needs to keep an open mind and willingly accept all perspectives. Eventually, one understands that the unique efforts to impart to the reader the belief that life is not concrete. Varying specific point of views, atypical responses to occasions and private primacy shape reality. Hence nobody truth exists but rather real reality is relative. As Peabody so lucidly asserts, truth, like death, is “… simply a function of the mind,” (44 ).

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