As I Lay Dying Essay: The Characters

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The Characters in As I Lay Dying

The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail. (excerpt-Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech)

Analyzing character in a Faulkner novel is like trying to reach the bottom of a bottomless pit because Faulkner's characters often lack ration, speak in telegraphed stream-of-consciousness, and rarely if ever lend themselves to ready analysis. This is particularly true in As I Lay Dying, a novel of a fragmented and dysfunctional family told through fragmented chapters. Each character reveals their perspective in different chapters, but the perspectives are true to life in that though they all reveal information
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After he catches a big fish he has one chapter where the only line expressed is "My mother is a fish" (Faulkner 79). This demonstrates his displaced love for his mother has been transferred to the fish as much as Jewel's displaced love for his mother is transferred to his beloved horse. Of course, if Vardaman is not fully individualized it is because there are few support mechanisms in his environment to support him. Faulkner believes few men are free and most are products of biological and psychological determinism coupled with environment. No one is there to nurture or support Vardaman over the loss of his mother, nor even teach him what death means. This is obvious in one of the most grotesque moments of the novel when he drills holes into his mother's coffin, and inadvertently her face, so she can breathe. Some have read a Freudian Oedipal interpretation into this moment, but, more accurately it is a child who loves his mother and misunderstands her death to such a degree that he believes drilling holes in the coffin will make her able to breathe, "'Are you going to nail her up in it, Cash? Cash? Cash?' I got shut up in the crib the new door it was too heavy for me it went shut I couldn't breathe because the rat was breathing up all the air. I said 'Are you going to nail it shut, Cash? Nail it? Nail it?'" (Faulkner 62).

Faulkner is a master at presenting reality from the perspective of multiple personalities, including different

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