Thursday, March 1, 2012

As I Lay Dying

1.          The novel begins with Addie Bundren ill and expecting to die soon.  Her son Cash, who is a carpenter, prepares a coffin for her, which is ready the morning she dies.  Addie's last wish was the she be buried in the town of Jefferson.  To fulfill this wish, Anse Bundren and his five children set off with the corpse to make the journey.  The family faces many obstacles along the way.  Recent floods have washed away bridges, causing the family to river-cross over their own hand-made bridge.  While crossing the bridge, the coffin falls on Cash's leg, breaking it.  Darl attempts to make a cast for Cash's leg, but that only makes  matters worse.  Not wanting to continue on with the mission, Darl attempts to destroy his mother's coffin, but Jewel turns up to rescue the coffin from the burning barn, much to Darl's dismay.  Believing that Darl has gone crazy, they commit him to a Jackson mental institution.  While Anse goes off to buy shovels to bury his deceased wife, he meets a women whom he suddenly marries, and returns to his family to introduce them to their new mother.
2.          A major theme of this novel is the uncertainties of life.  The loss of their mother causes Addie's children to question the meaning of life and their role here on earth.  Darl is especially troubled by this loss.  Believing that because his mother no longer "is," she never existed and therefore he doesn't exist.  He is later declared insane.  Anse's new marriage so swiftly after his wife's death causes the children to question family morals and their existence even further.
3.          The novel is told through the views of fifteen different people.  The major tone felt throughout is very emotional, understandably so considering the story is about a family transporting their deceased mother to her burial place. 
"Jewel's hat droops limp about his neck, channeling water onto the soaked towsack tied about his shoulders as, ankle-deep in the running ditch, he pries with a slipping two-by-four, with a piece of rotting log for fulcrum, at the axle. Jewel, I say, she is dead, Jewel. Addie Bundred is dead."
"I strike, the stick hitting into the ground, bouncing, striking into the dust and then into the air again and the dust sucking on down the road faster than if a car was in it. And then I can cry, looking at the stick."
"In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not.  And when you are filled with sleep, you never were.  I don't know what I am."
4.          Foreshadowing:  Kate Tull predicts that Anse will remarry quickly after the death of Addie, which in fact does happen.

Diction:  The author gives the characters southern accents to contribute to the meaning of the setting.
          "Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It's like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it's the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it."
Irony:  Peabody finds Addie's love for Jewel to be out of stubbornness.  This is ironic because Peabody doesn't know Addie had Jewel out of an affair.
"That's what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again."
Metaphors:  The children make illogical connections to their mothers, showing how confused about the matters of death they are.
"Jewel's mother is a horse," Darl said. "Then mine can be a fish, can't it, Darl?" I said. "Then what is your ma, Darl?" I said. "I haven't got ere one," Darl said. "Because if I had one, it is was. And if it was, it can't be is. Can it?"
Tone:  This passage shows the emotional state the children are left in.
"Words don't ever fit even what they are trying to say at. Motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn't care whether there was a word for it or not."

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