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Southern Influence In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

1706 words - 7 pages

The novels of William Faulkner are amongst some of the most important books of the twentieth century. In 1949 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for all of his great works. Most of his novels were based on his own surroundings and where he grew up (Faulkner, william, 2009). In his novel, As I Lay Dying, Faulkner uses his own southern influence to create the setting, characters, and motifs to develop the narrative behind this poor southern family.
As I Lay Dying is set in the 1920’s between two parts of Mississippi. One area is a rural part of Mississippi called Yoknapatawpha County. Faulkner is known to use this place in many of his novels. It is a fictional version of his own home town Lafayette County, Mississippi. This poor, dirty, run down county is where the Bundren family live (Hubbs, 2008). Yoknapatawpha County has a country life feel to it and it is the Bundren family’s heart, home, and soul. However, during the course of As I Lay Dying, the Bundren family is on a voyage to Yoknapatawpha’s capital, Jefferson, to bury Addie Bundren (the mother and wife of the family). They make this day and a half endeavor by horse and wagon, carrying Addie’s body in a homemade coffin. Jefferson is a big city where Addie’s blood family is from, and it is her wish to be buried with them within the city limits.
Although there are well over ten characters in As I Lay Dying, there are three that play a major part of the novel. The first character, Addie Bundren, though she is dead most of the story, is one of the most important characters in this novel. Her unusual wish to be buried near her blood family instead of her own family is the basis of the novel. Upon reading the novel, Addie seems to be a strong-minded and clever woman who is troubled by the fact that marriage and children is not as great as it appears. Addie sees marriage and motherhood as empty concepts. Her bitter, loveless life causes her to despise her husband Anse and their children together. The one thing she did get fulfillment from in life was a brief affair with Whitfield (a local minister) which led to the conception of her son Jewel, whom she favors more than the rest of her family.
Even as a corpse, Addie is an important character in the novel, hindering and separating her family just as much as she did when she was alive. Many events that happen after Addie’s death make it seem like Addie is still alive. Addie’s youngest child, Vardaman drills holes in Addie’s coffin so she can breathe, and when Vardaman and his older brother Darl are listening to the noises of the decomposing body, Darl claims that these sounds are Addie speaking. Even the awful smell of Addie’s body draws a large audience of strangers (Kerr, 1962).The idea that there is a link between the human voice of the living Addie and the decaying biological mass that is the dead Addie, is the most emotionally powerful concept shown in the novel.
The second major character in As I Lay Dying is Darl. Darl is...

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