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As I Lay Dying

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jessb95
Words 1469
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William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying breaks the facticity of literary convention by constructing a storyline that asserts a conflict in the reader rather than predominately within the characters. The basic conflict that sets forth thematic conflict of the distinction of facts and truth within the nature of the mind is of a Southern decaying family’s attempt to bring their mother home for burial. Faulkner narrates each character’s singular point of view to show the result of the multitude of subjective interpretations as each character deals with their emotions engendered by the events. The reader is unsure as to which imitated perspective is objective towards the truth. Faulkner’s narration of imitating events from a different stand point develops an arguing conflict of what is thought to be an established nature of mind. As I Lay Dying is a conflict of the conceptual idea of truth. It can be interpreted that the conflict of the narrative is a conflict of our beings – whether or not there is such a thing as unprejudiced truth. Within the beginning narratives, the characters reveal their corruptions that will obscure their interpretations: including adultery, pregnancy, abortion, hatred, and insanity. Using multiple views promotes the isolation each family member’s internal conflicts in relation to their response to their mother’s death, relationships, and own seemingly selfish concerns. The reader begins to see the instability of their isolation when the Faulkner establishes no character to provide objectivity. The extremities in the elusiveness of the truth can be followed through the issues associated with each character and how the novel’s multiple perspectives interpret their issues, obscuring the line of accuracy. For instance, Vardaman’s surreal thought processes of dealing with his mother’s death by asserting in his mind the notion that his “…mother is a fish” while Jewel’s “ ‘…mother is a horse’” (Faulkner, 95). This simple notion signifies an exaggerated instance of when the narratives seemingly overlap to provide more evidence that truth is abstract. A conversation between Darl and Vardaman presents this conflict of truth as elusive:
“Then what is your ma, Darl?” I said. “I havn’t ere got one,” Darl said. “Because if I had one, it was. And if it was, it can’t be is. Can it?’…’Then I am not,’ Darl said. ‘Am I?’ (Faulkner, 95).
Each character isolates themselves in their perspectives and even they, like Darl doubt their own standing. Darl’s doubt in his existence goes so far as to him being considered insane simply because he is unable to establish anything absolutes, becoming consumed by doubt. Darl states this elusiveness, “I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not” (Faulkner, 76). The reader begins to see the instability of their isolation when the Faulkner establishes no character to establish a complete trust. This doubt in reader displays the conflict of the establishing absolute facts. Each person has their own episode, character, chapter that has its own function in relation to the conflict Faulkner conveys to the reader’s consciousness.
Their isolation from each other comes at an inconvenient time when their connection is needed most, displaying the personality conflicts of this decaying family. Though the family is still a unit, the relatives are marked by their own distinctiveness. Tull and Cora, although a couple, show doubts in their beliefs that are formatted to be conveyed as absolute. Tull recognizes this element in Cora, whom is supposed to be straight in her faith, “ ‘One breath you say they was daring the hand of God to try, and the next breath you jump on Anse because he wasn’t with them’” (Faulkner, 146). Cora displays another important aspect of humanity – the reliance on faith to avoid the troubling questions of reality. Yet, even she cannot help but provide her own perspective to her reality, rather than trust her god. Her devout faith limits the accountability of her perception. She lets faith get in the way of allowing her to accept reality by masking human doubt with beliefs. Each person has their own episode, character, and chapter that has its own function in relation to the conflict Faulkner conveys to the reader’s consciousness. Even Faulkner recognizes his intention in writing such a plain story to shape a larger idea in an example that displays the errors in human judgment: “…the reader has read all these thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird, then reader has his own fourteenth way of looking at the blackbird….”. The character’s point of views is to be taken as aspects of the larger design that Faulkner creates. Faulkner allows the reader to watch in several points of views while making one of their own. The variation in narratives makes the visible line of truth obscured. An obvious example of this variation in perceived truth is when Dewey Dell and Vardaman confront each other in the barn:
“‘You durn little sneak!" My hands shake him, hard. Maybe I couldn't stop them. I didn't know they could shake so hard. They shake both of us, shaking. "I never done it," he says. "I never touched them.’” (Faulkner, 87). Dewey Dell and Varadman both cling to their own blamelessness, yet with truth being defined as an absolute the reader knows that both cannot be faultless. They both become confused with the assumed actuality of the situation within their mind’s interpretation. Dewey Dell thought Vardaman was spying on her, while Varadaman was anticipating a scolding for messing with the doctor’s horses. The perception of their reality is too complete different versions. Another circumstance of inconsistent opinions is the decision of the family to send Darl to a mental institution after he burns down the barn to destroy Addie’s body. Cash present’s his standpoint: “ ‘Sometimes I ain’t sho who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he ain't. Sometimes I think it ain’t none of us pure crazy and ain’t 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’” (Faulkner, 210).
The statement made by Cash reaffirms the thematic conflict that perceptions obscure actions, which are in turn thought to be absolute. Darl is considered insane based on the opinions of the Bundren family and outsiders. This assumption is made on the basis that Darl’s perspectives are more separated from that of his family’s, his failure to conform to their norm. The character’s struggle with each other due to their stubborn perspectives by nature. This principle of variance is buried within the development of this novel. The disagreements amongst the Bundren family are symbolic of humanity’s inability to agree on an objective reality, resulting in universal doubts and differences such as religion, politics, and social norms. The resolution of the prejudices of truth can never be resolved and is not in the novel, making it subject to interpretation.
There is no single definitive theme of this novel, which makes it such a classic work. Faulkner pieced his style so poignantly that a single theme would negate the novel’s effect. Faulkner is careful to portray the characters to signify common doubts in truths. He allows the reader to watch in several points of views while making one of their own. The variation in narratives makes the visible line of truth obscured. The reader can no longer judge a character’s or even person’s ignorance or intelligence and decipherer which element is more liable to truth. The resolution of the prejudices of truth can never be resolved and is not in the novel. It can be interpreted through this literary work that the truth can’t absolutely exist in the human spectrum since each of our experiences is engendered differently. It is unsafe to depend on the viewpoints of any single voice however wise, innocent, trusted, or sophisticated it may be. Faulkner is indirect and in a sense directs the reader to become indirect in regards to their judgment of their own and other’s perception. The novel prompt’s the reader to distrust your own notions. The relations among the assumptions of each character’s point of view provide a study into human interpretation of factuality and existence. Faulkner’s work is difficult to interpret since the many conflicts coexist in his narratives. The reader must study the details to discover the progression of a disguised conflict that relates to principles in reality. The conflict can’t be resolved, but can be concluded to a personal conclusion depending on the reader’s perception. Faulkner’s intent was to make the resolution is unsettling and unclear in order to structure a novel that made readers question the nature of our reality and make the decision on how and to what extremity to follow their perceptions.

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