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The Role Of Isolation In As I Lay Dying

1336 words - 5 pages

William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, tells the story of a family that journeys cross-country with the intentions to find a proper resting place for their mother, Addie Bundren. After reading for only a short time, it becomes clear that two of her sons, Jewel and Darl, play a much larger role in the story than the other siblings. One could find many good points to support either character being labeled as the protagonist of the story, such as the various tensions that can clearly be seen between them. That being said, Darl is, without a doubt, the best possible choice. He is forced to overcome more obstacles, including alienation from his entire family, than any other character, and is truly a changed person by the end of the novel.
The word protagonist comes from the Greek word protagistes, meaning “One who plays the lead role.” The protagonist is forced to adapt to various conditions, and overcome many obstacles. A separate character or an omniscient narrator usually tells the protagonist’s story, but the protagonist himself can also tell it. While there is normally only one protagonist, there can more than one antagonist. The antagonist is the character that opposes the protagonist, and is usually responsible for the obstacles in his way. One common literary technique that is often used to rapidly change an audience’s viewpoint on a story is the use of a false protagonist. A false protagonist appears to the reader as the main character (the protagonist), but is suddenly removed from the picture completely. This removal is often accomplished by killing the false protagonist.
Darl Bundren is the second of the Bundren children. He narrates more sections in the book than any other character, and is a World War One veteran. He feels as if he is ranked second best in his mother’s eyes, which makes him very jealous of Jewel, whom Addie clearly favors over all her other children. He usually doesn’t get along with his brother, Jewel, and often scrutinizes and makes fun of him, most likely out of pure jealousy. At one point, Darl goes so far as to try to keep Jewel isolated from his mother as she is dying. Darl also has what can only be described as telepathic abilities. He is the only character in the book that can accurately describe what is occurring at locations other than the one he is at. This ability is discovered when it becomes obvious that Darl knows of Dewey Dell’s pregnancy, despite the fact that she has maintained absolute secrecy in the matter. In fact, Darl discovers Addie’s death telepathically, and is able to tell Jewel about her death before either one of them have even returned to the house to see her. Darl’s own telepathy will become the biggest obstacle he is forced to confront in the novel, and it will eventually lead to his demise.
While Darl does embark on the cross-country journey with the rest of his family, he never fully supports or commits himself the idea. This resurfaces towards the end of the novel when it becomes...

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