Essay on As I Lay Dying: Freudian Theories of the Bundren Family

1468 Words Dec 2nd, 2012 6 Pages
William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in 1930, around the time when the theories of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, were gaining popularity. In his story about the death of a mother, Addie, and her family’s reaction and grieving process, Faulkner adheres to many of Freud’s theories on defense mechanisms. According to Freud, “Challenges from the outer environment and from our inner urges threaten us with anxiety… The process that the ego (subconscious mind) uses to distort reality to protect itself are called defense mechanisms” (Friedman 39). The family’s lack of a mourning process, obsession over burying Addie in Jefferson, and desire to acquire materialistic items all exemplify Freud’s defense mechanisms. Faulkner …show more content…
Another facet of Freud’s defense mechanisms that Faulkner employs in his novel is the use of rationalization. There are several instances throughout the Bundrens’ journey where they act irrationally to fulfill Addie’s wish of being buried in Jefferson. According to Freud “rationalization is a mechanism involving post hoc logical explanations for behaviors that were actually driven by internal unconscious motives” (Friedman 49). The Bundrens did not even begin their journey to Jefferson until ten days after Addie had died. The journey to Jefferson itself was unreasonable for the Bundrens to complete. Jefferson is far away, the bridge to get there was flooded, and they are a poor family who must rely on others to help them along their journey. While Anse, Addie’s husband, does not appear to be grieving and does not mention Addie’s death, we learn that “his mind is set on taking her to Jefferson,” despite warnings of rain and a flooded bridge (Faulkner 86). After waiting ten days to begin the treacherous journey, the Bundrens still rationalized going to Jefferson to bury Addie. Tull explains that Anse “promised her” that she could be buried there and that “she wanted it. She come from there. Her mind was set on it” (Faulkner 89). While it seems logical that a man would want to fulfill his wife’s dying wish, the conditions of reaching Jefferson
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