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The Relativism of Reality in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying Anonymous


“It’s like it aint a lot what a fellow does, but it the method the majority of folks is taking a look at him when he does it,” (Faulkner, 233). In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, an apparent disparity exists in between death and birth and between words and thoughts that ultimately alters the method occasions are viewed. Peabody articulates that death does not take any one kind but rather takes different types based upon various viewpoints. He states, “I can remember how when I was young I thought death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind,” (44 ). This forms the philosophy that relatively concrete occasions like birth, death and the life in between are not outright at all. Rather emotions form them into distinct events which vary from person to individual. Through the insights of his characters Faulkner likewise seems to recommend that words do not indicate the very same thing to everyone. Rather everyone’s distinct perceptions give various meaning to the very same words. This is another method which truth, in this case the truth of language, differs. Eventually, through numerous contradictions, through the primacy of the individual and through a divergence from expected emotional responses, Faulkner relates his theory that truth is indefinite and that individual perceptions and feelings, not simply facts, shape truth.

Faulkner utilizes his characters as vehicles to express the belief that reality and events are indefinite and are formed based on feelings and specific viewpoints as much as on real facts. Faulkner develops this style primarily around Darl’s assumed insanity and the differing reactions to it. Darl has an incredible capability to notice his brother or sisters’ individual sensations and to handle their personalities. Therefore, his response to his own insanity strangely simulates the reactions of his brother or sisters. In his final look he proclaims, “Darl is our sibling, our bro Darl. Our brother Darl in a cage in Jackson where, his grimed hands lying light in the peaceful interstices, watching out he lathers. ‘Yes yes yes,'” (254 ). Having a jarringly similar response, Vardaman represents the impressionable masses of society as a whole. Young and innocent, Vardaman has no strong opinions of his own but rather handles the viewpoints of the bulk around him. Vardaman perceives Darl’s insanity in a much more black and white manner. He states quite simply; “Darl is my brother. Darl went bananas,” (250 ). This lies in direct contrast to Cash’s far more philosophical response. For it remains Cash who asserts most lucidly that, “It resembles it aint a lot what a fellow does, but it’s in the way most of folk is looking at him when he does it,” (233 ). He also states that, “Often I aint so sho’ who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. Often I believe it aint none of us pure insane and aint none people pure sane until the balance of us talk him that-a-way,” (233 ). Hence, he summarizes Faulkner’s belief that truth, in this case the reality of Darl’s madness, is only reality if one’s perceptions consider it so. Otherwise truth becomes total falsity. Jewel as soon as again stands apart from the remainder of the family. He feels little regret, sorrow or remorse for Darl’s virtual jail time, stating to Darl straightforwardly, “You goddamn lying son of a bitch,” (213 ). These widely varying responses to Darl’s insanity show that truth maintains no certain kind however rather differs based on each individual’s emotions or understandings.

Words, as used in As I Lay Perishing, do not often precisely show the impressions or the implications that the character attempts to communicate through them. Therefore, the viewed precision of words lessens and truth becomes more abstract. Words are definite in their tangible form. However, words achieve suggesting just through the individual connotations that are connected to them. As Addie declares, “That was when I discovered that words are no excellent; that words do not ever fit even what they are attempting to state at,” (171 ). Communication in between the characters appears most efficient when words are not used at all, even more stressing the ineffectiveness of words. For example, throughout the conversation in between Dewey Dell and Darl regarding her pregnancy, words are never spoken aloud. This nonverbal discussion not just appears more efficient in conveying its meaning but Dewey Dell likewise expresses that had it been spoken aloud, she would not have actually thought it. This again suggests the fallibility of words. Dewey Dell articulates, “It was then, and then I saw Darl and he knew. He stated he knew without words … and I understood he knew because if he had stated he knew with the words I would not have believed that he had existed and saw us,” (27 ). This evident ineffectiveness of words requires the reader to observe the uncertainty of events in life; events which are based on specific responses to a circumstance instead of a factual meaning.

Each character’s different reaction to Addie’s death illustrates Faulkner’s concept of the primacy of the individual. Their words show different responses therefore proving that similar words and comparable occasions have extremely diverse undertones. Vardaman’s failure to cope with the reality of Addie’s death underscores his childish, typically ignorant response, to various occasions. His reaction seems to be the one that is the most out of touch with true truth. He mumbles, “My mom 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 reacts by rejecting the physical death of his mom by asserting, “My mom is not in the box. My mom does not smell like that. My mom is a fish,” (196 ). While this appears ludicrous, its clarity appears if one observes it in a more philosophical way. Certainly, Addie does not lie in the box, but rather just her body lies in the box. The actual person, her spirit, swam away down the river. He can decline truth and hence his dream becomes his reality. He truly thinks that his mom is a fish and hence questions, “Where is ma Darl? … You never ever got her. You know she is a fish however you let her escape,” (151 ). Darl’s reaction to Addie’s death depends on plain contrast to Vardaman’s when he asserts that, “Addie Bundren will not be. And Gem is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I need to be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a weird room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is,” (81 ). Vardaman’s response seems far more philosophical and his response remains internalized. His inability to reveal his feelings in words strengthens the primacy of the internal individual instead of the physical world. Anse reacts by denying her disease 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 concerns such as his tools and on the mechanics of making the coffin. Money proceeds to explain the building of the casket, the physical way in which he dealt with Addie’s death. He declares, “I made it on a bevel … It makes a neater task,” (82-3). He is the only one of the 3 sons who does not associate Addie with a fictional entity or animal. Darl associates Addie with “is was” (101) and he associates Jewel’s mom with “a horse” (101 ). Lastly, Vardaman associates Addie with “a fish,” (84 ). Cash never enters this conversation and therefore appears more in touch with truth than the other characters. These vastly various responses stress the primacy of the individual over one particular truth through complex responses to the same occasion.

The uncertainty of truth and the differing views of one event surface areas again in the infamous river crossing scene. The even-keeled Tull lays out the facts quite simply, specifying, “… Darl leapt out of the wagon and left Money sitting there attempting to save it … the mules finally kicked it loose, it looked for a minute like perhaps Money would get the wagon back,” (152-4). He plays the role of the omniscient narrator, relating the story simply using the realities. This serves as a referral point for the narratives of the other characters, which are filled with emotion and discontinuity. The different characters’ accounts of the river crossing reflect the exact same emotions that each character feels towards Addie’s death. Vardaman, the character least in touch with truth, continues to be not able to different himself from the concept of his mom existing still as a fish. He stays fixated upon the concept that Addie continues to survive on Earth in a fish’s body. Money focuses completely on earthly things like the coffin saying, “It wasn’t on balance. I told them that if they desired it to tote and ride on a balance they would need to,” (165 ). Lastly, Darl appears to handle the sensations of each character. He appears sluggish to act and ponder in his motions which shows his reaction to Addie’s death, slow to accept her death and deliberate in overcoming it. The various accounts of the river crossing show the probability of differing views of one event, therefore making the presence of a singular reality problematic.

A divergence from the common feelings related to birth exists. Societal standards determine that a birth is a pleased event. Nevertheless, Addie and Dewey Dell show a divergence from reality since they feel that their aloneness has been broken by their unanticipated pregnancies. Thus they feel anger instead of pleasure. Cora represents the common, societal stereotype when she stresses, “God gave you kids 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 conventional stereotypes of birth due to the fact that of their past experiences and existing scenario. The pregnancy breaches her aloneness in Dewey Dell’s mind and she regrets, “It’s due to the fact that I am alone. If I might just feel it, it would be various, since I would not be alone. However if I were not alone, everybody would understand … Then I might be all best alone,” (59 ). Addie’s sensations of violation and anger mirror those of Dewey Dell. She testifies that, “When he was born I understood that motherhood was developed by someone who had to have a word for it due to the fact that the one that had the kids didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not,” (172 ). Her anger likewise resurfaces when she laments, “I knew that it had been, not that my aloneness needed to be broken up until Money came,” (172 ). Dewey Dell’s and Addie’s divergence from the regular sentiments of pleasure and joyfulness towards birth represents a further reflection of Faulkner’s philosophy that understandings and emotions shape occasions in life.

William Faulkner, in his unique As I Lay Dying reveals his belief that extremely various ideas, perceptions and emotions form life and make it indefinite. His characters all offer different accounts of the same fundamental event. Ultimately, the reader realizes that a seemingly concrete occasion is not concrete at all but rather fluid and ever altering due to the differing perceptions of the characters included. Through Addie Bundren’s declaration, “That was when I discovered that words are no good; that words do not ever fit even what they are trying to state at,” (171 ), Faulkner likewise asserts that words have no significance in their concrete, guaranteed form however that individual emotions, understandings, and experiences provide indicating. Even still, words remain indefinite and ever-changing in their meaning. Faulkner seems to worry the value of objectivity by emphasizing the complex descriptions of one, particular event. He seems to state that it is impossible to define life or truth because each human being specifies it for himself. Faulkner implies that a guy must keep an open mind and voluntarily accept all perspectives. Eventually, one recognizes that the novel attempts to impart to the reader the belief that life is not concrete. Varying private viewpoints, atypical responses to events and private primacy shape truth. Thus no one truth exists however rather true truth is relative. As Peabody so lucidly asserts, truth, like death, is “… merely a function of the mind,” (44 ).

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