As I Lay Dying - Independent Study
Each student has been assigned a topic (you will find your name in the list at the bottom of the page).
1. After reading As I Lay Dying, you will respond to your assigned prompt in a 400-550 word informal response.
2. Once you have posted your informal response as a blog entry (I suggest typing on a word document and then copy/pasting into the blog entry box - ADD WORD COUNT AT END OF RESPONSE), you will then read all of your colleagues' entries.
3. You will then respond to 2 colleagues' entries (each in a different topic from yours and from each other) in 100-150 word informal responses. This is similar to the usual blog entries that we have completed, except that you will discussing and responding to different topics.
This is an important activity and, done correctly, will expose you to at least three different lens analyses of As I Lay Dying. In light of the importance of this activity, I will be counting this assignment as a 200 point Summative Assessment (100 points for Primary Responses and 50 points each for Secondary Responses).
The Due Dates are:
-Primary Responses must be completed by Sunday, May 4th at midnight.
-Secondary Responses must be completed by Tuesday, May 6th at midnight.
1. Family and Honor - Samantha, Abigail, Edgar, Jahnai
As I Lay Dying could be read as a metaphor for any family; the Bundrens are stuck together on a long journey, to help or hurt each other. The conflicts between feelings of desire, love, honor, and a longing for identity outside the family eventually lead to disaster.
How do the Bundrens exemplify "family values?"
How do they fail to?
Does Faulkner see the Bundrens as a typical American family?
(Are most people like this?)
2. Religion - Nathaniel, Cynthia, Akwasi
The religious characters in the book (Whitfield, Cora) have very little positive impact on the Bundrens. Addie explicitly rejects religion after her affair with Whitfield. Cora uses her religious outlook chiefly as a way to judge and criticize the impoverished and low-class Bundrens. Anse often quotes scripture to justify his own selfish actions.
Do you agree with Faulkner’s depiction of religion in modern life?
If so, build upon it. If not, create a counter-argument.
3. Mortality and Ritual - Brittani, Thomas, Arvinda
To the ancient Greeks, burial ritual was an extremely important religious task, representative of the loyalty a person has engendered in his family in life. Agamemnon speaks from hell to Odysseus: "As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades." He is referring to his wife Clytemnestra, whom conspired to murder him.
Do the Bundrens betray Addie, or do they honor her? Does Addie betray them by asking Anse to make the journey to Jefferson?
Does it matter what happens to our bodies after we die?
4. Sanity - Elizabeth, Nicole, Denean
“Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane,” says Cash. He then decides that if a person acts without thinking about how his actions affect other people, he is crazy.
Do you agree with Cash? Are we all a little crazy?
How does society use the word “crazy”—or even “mental illness”— to define people?
Does Darl deserve his fate? How are Darl's "special powers" of narration related to what happens to him?
5. Perspective - Maricarmen, Stephanie, Patricia
Comment on the multiple perspectives of the novel. What do we learn cumulatively about the characters through their various voices?
What is the effect of these shifts in view?
Which is the truer perspective of ourselves: the one from our eyes or from the eyes of others?
You may analyze in depth one voice, or contrast two opposing voices (Darl and Jewel, for example).
6. Desire - Shayna, Kayla, Abril
All of the family members use their mother’s burial as an excuse to go to town in order to acquire something.
Which desires are more sympathetic, and which are less so?
Is this a betrayal of Addie?
Do our modern desires for material goods come between us and those we love?
7. Symbolism - Julie, Thalia, Adam
Faulkner's shifting voices often finds commonality in elemental natural symbols: water, fire, horse, earth, sky, eye, wood, bird, etc.
Choose one or more of these and make a unified comment on the symbol's ties to an allusion, perspective, insight, comment, or traditional generic convention.
5/3/2014 06:23:51 am
Everyone has rituals. Some are simple, like waking up and doing the Sun Salutation or whatever yoga nuts call that thing they do. Another common ritual, though far less frequent, is the rite of burial. As a species, we love to bury our dead. Whether we do this out of reverence to their life, out of faith in religion, or out of the pragmatism of not wanting to smell dead people rotting is up to debate. Within As I Lay Dying, the Bundrens are attempting to follow the first two of these motivations even as others around them gripe at them for causing issues pertaining to the third. I feel the Bundrens are honoring Addie, as they are basically carrying out her last will and testament. As Anse repeatedly says in some shape or form throughout the novel, “With that family burying-ground in Jefferson and them of her blood waiting for her there…I promised my word me and the boys would get her there” (Faulkner 19). Addie’s last request is that when she dies, she should be buried in Jefferson, where she is from. The Bundruns are merely attempting to carry out this request, and it seems sacrilegious only because Mother Nature seems to convene in favor of delaying them as much as she possibly can.
5/5/2014 11:55:52 pm
Thanks to someone else's post for reminding me...word count: 532.
5/16/2014 12:20:55 am
I agree with your opinion of the Bundrens honoring Addie. Although they have trouble trying to bring her to Jefferson, at least they are attempting. However, I somewhat disagree with your opinion about how “good” people and “bad” people should be buried. I admit, I would feel remorse and would prefer if the person received the treatment he/she gave. However, every person is a human being and deserves the right of ritual. Although they are dead, it is still inhumane to just throw them in the dirt. I believe they will pay all of the harm they did whether it is now, or later. We should do everything possible to save and forgive them.
5/3/2014 01:21:47 pm
The constantly changing point of view in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is one of the most important aspects of the novel. It is a crucial device for understanding each character because the reader can view them from multiple angles, rather than just one. When the point of view shifts for each chapter, the reader can also view the action of the novel from the eyes and minds of different characters. The different ages, genders, goals, and desires the characters possess bring different interpretations and meanings to all elements of the text. The different points of view are also important because none of the characters in the novel would be reliable narrators. This is especially true considering the stream of consciousness method of narration. The reader would hardly know what was going on in the novel if, for example, Vardaman narrated the whole thing.
5/4/2014 03:38:47 am
You bring up a lot of good points. I agree with the idea of understanding everyone better because they are viewed from multiple angles; after all, Darl seems to be quite hostile towards Jewel and thus has a more biased way of describing him. I get the feeling someone could make an entire essay out of the lack of focus on Dewel Dell you brought up. She does seem to play a very “backseat” role in most of the story outside of her subplot of hunting for an abortion. It’d probably be quite easy to call Faulkner out from a feminist standpoint using the idea that his female characters don’t get as much focus as the males, whether or not that’s actually the case.
5/5/2014 11:22:42 pm
Forgot the word count. 402 words.
5/6/2014 01:09:24 pm
I agree with your post and your position of the effectiveness on having multiple narrators in a story. In my opinion I've always loved novels that incorporated the point of view of more than just one character. I don't really think a book is as interesting unless you can get an insight into all of the major characters and even minor characters as well. As you're reading a book from the main character's perspective it creates a set tone, mood, and biased opinion about other characters. For instance when you brought up the fact that nobody really paid much attention to Dewey it was like as if she wasn't important at all, so the reader starts to develop this idea that Dewey is an irrelevant character in the story. It's even more successful when you have a minor character like Dewey to speak up for herself and look at the lens through her point of view because then it creates a more empathetic mood. I believe that having multiple narrators, captures the readers attention and really makes a reader judge a character based upon their own biased opinion rather than having the "main narrator" express his or her own biased opinion.
5/4/2014 12:15:21 pm
5/6/2014 11:37:33 am
I agree that everything Addie’s dead body goes through is representative of the Bundren’s life. Anse insists on bringing the coffin to Jefferson and claims that his reasoning is to honor Addie. Ironically, her body faces dishonor by mutilation and desecration because the family was trying to honor her wishes. I really sympathize with Darl because he was so tortured by the fact that the rest of his family was allowing his mother’s dead body to rot in her coffin that he did something drastic about it which got him locked away. What Darl was trying to do was complete the ritual as soon as possible so that it would no longer haunt him.
5/18/2014 06:39:22 pm
I also agree with you, Patricia. Darl was tortured by the fact that the rest of his family was allowing their mother's body to rot and his actions spoke more than his words. Darl was haunted and he really wanted to guide his mother to peace. Although anxiety and "crazy" thoughts built up and caused him to speak with stream of consciousness he was just trying to speak up for his dead mother. Here is a quote to back up both of our responses... "I know her. Wagon or no wagon, she wouldn't wait. Then she'd be upset, and I wouldn't upset her for the living world. With that family burying-ground in Jefferson and them of her blood waiting for her there, she'll be impatient. I promised my word me and the boys would get her there quick as mules could walk it, so she could rest quiet." Darl, p. 18
Shayna thinks there should be a fanfic with a zombie Addie
5/6/2014 02:15:29 pm
I think Addie's request could be a betrayal. She mentions asking Anse to promise to bury her in Jefferson right after writing that her revenge on him would be that he won't know it's revenge. It seems like she just requested this to spite him (or maybe just to be a troll).
5/6/2014 04:19:33 pm
Addie seemed to hate Anse, which is why she wanted to be buried in Jefferson. As I Lay Dying suggests that dying is a great relief from the suffering of live we all live. Her death was a reward for her because she finally could be free away from them. She causes her family to bear the struggle of the journey to Jefferson. That was very selfish, but that was her last wish. There were many incidents after Addie’s death that reflects that some part of Addie is still living. Also, the Bundrens family supposedly trip was supposed to honor the wishes of Addie, but their reasons are ultimately selfish. 110 words
5/5/2014 12:13:30 pm
In As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner uses many naturalistic symbols to allude to death and the afterlife. Three of Faulkner’s most powerful displays of symbolism are seen in a fish, a horse, and an eye.
5/5/2014 11:40:21 pm
I never made the connection between Addie and Jesus, or any other Biblical references, so I’m glad you did! It makes a lot of sense to me now. I was very confused about Vardaman’s whole “my mother is a fish” thing. However, comparing Addie Bundren to other things like a fish and a horse seems to be an important detail of the novel, considering it is often repeated, so it is good to consider this detail carefully. Addie was certainly like a Christ figure, especially due to her self-sacrifice, but she was also very irreligious, so it is an interesting comparison. 101 words.
5/6/2014 12:01:39 am
I agree with the concept you brought up when discussing eyes. Everyone does seem to hold Addie in a special sort of reverence even if they can’t seem to all settle unanimously on anything else. Another pair of eyes that might have been worth mentioning was Darl’s eyes – people repeatedly remark on them throughout the book. That has to mean something, right? That or Faulkner was just trying to throw in a red herring – oh look, another fish – although to be honest I doubt that he would do such a thing. It’s interesting how Addie seems to parallel Jesus Christ and then unlike him she absolutely hates life. I could almost see a connection back to Frankenstein here – some entity that has the capacity to live a lot longer, but it sees no joy in life and thus doesn’t really want to do so in the slightest.
5/6/2014 01:22:58 pm
I as well never thought about the connection between Addie and Jesus Christ. You make some really interesting suggestions. All though as Thomas mention too, I find it a bit ironic that you mentioned that she represented Him because we're always told that preying on death is a sin. She never really cared about her family (besides Jewel) instead she'd rather die than to put up with them and she also mentioned how much she hated life, something that seems to go against God's rules of enjoying the richness of life. Also your statement that Jewel's horse is a symbolism for his mother also makes a lot sense because he also treated her cold even though he loved her deep inside.
Shayna is not a fish
5/5/2014 04:00:29 pm
Anse actually goes to town to get teeth and to get married, while he says that Addie is counting on his promise and her word is sacred to him. This isn't very sympathetic, especially since he takes advantage of his family members to get money for these purposes, all while complaining about the difficulty of the journey. This is a betrayal of Addie, who he says he doesn't begrudge for inconveniencing the family by dying.
5/14/2014 12:23:18 pm
Anse was very selfish the entire journey. He complained that the others were being selfish and opportunist by finding reasons other than the burring of their beloved mother to go to Jefferson. For example, Dewey wanted to go strictly to get an abortion, and Anse wanted to go to get his teeth fixed and to find a new wife. It seems that only Darl’s and Jewels intentions of burring their mother and completing her dying wish were actually genuine. I agree with you, Darl isn’t present during some scenes that he narrarates but I think this is to emphasize how much he cares about his mother’s death.
5/16/2014 04:37:46 am
I agree with your opinion of many of the betrayals. It is obvious that the only ones that genuinely put Addie before them were Darl and Jewel. While, the act of the rest of the family members is shameful for putting their wants before Addie’s burial. This supports the idea that modern desires do take over our morals and come between the ones that we love. Forgetting to actually have sympathy, and take in consideration what actually matters; instead of worrying over things like teeth and abortion. Even though it might be a relative, it seems that our “personal needs” cannot wait and have to be done since we are already there.
5/5/2014 04:22:22 pm
The whole entire family uses many excuses to go down town in order to acquire something as they go on their Journey to bury their own mother. Anse’s desire to bury Addie in her home town of Jefferson does not result in a selfless manner but more of a selfish one. His excuse to keep her promise is a way of him trying to rationalize the fact that he just wanted to go into town to acquire some new set of teeth. Not only is his excuse less sympathetic than the others but it really pathetic that he would steal the money for his own daughter’s abortion in order to get what he wanted. In my opinion I feel like Cash deserves a lot of credit than most and his desire to use his mother’s burial as an excuse to acquire something is sympathetic. I feel like his desire is more sympathetic because he went through this whole entire journey while not making a big fuss about how much pain he was in. They did end up using cement to makeshift a cast for his broken leg, which only turned out to cause more pain for him, and still he continued to push forward on the journey. Dewey Dell’s desire to go in town is still a bit iffy in my opinion. I honestly have a hard time trying to decipher if her excuse was sympathetic or not only because to me I feel like abortion is unethical. However, I can understand how hard it was to care for and nurture a baby back in the days and also back when poverty was much favorable in families. But in my perspective I don’t really think her and her father’s excuses were sympathetic under the pretense that they went to town to benefit themselves instead of focusing on the sole purpose to just fulfill their mother’s wish to be buried with her family in her home town. I feel like this is somewhat of a betrayal of Addie because, like I said before, all she wanted was to be reunited with her actual family. But then again Addie didn’t really think highly of her family, she only ever did favorite Jewel more than anyone else. So perhaps the scenes that take place weren’t as truly bad as they seem because Addie wasn’t really fair with her children just because they came from Anse.
5/5/2014 04:29:24 pm
Cash is right humans are a little bit crazy. The quote “Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane,” says a lot about humans. A functional human brain is really unique in that a person’s action could make them look insane to other people but that person could think they’re actions are justified . What determines your sanity or insanity would be what type of person you are and how you interact with people. When Cash makes this decision in the book saying “He then decides that if a person acts without thinking about how his actions affect other people, he is crazy.” It is only because for him he is part of a big family so he is always thinking about how is actions will affect other people in addition he is the bread winner in the family so in his perspective he sees that all his decision that he makes does affect the family and it would be senseless for him to do something and not think what would happen to his family if he decides to do the wrong thing. As for Darl he is different because for one thing he talks in the third person like he’s observing and telling the story as if he wasn’t a part of the story even though he is. Darl would be a primary example of a character this is insane because of his actions but again Darl could have thought that his actions and behaviors were normal. It doesn’t say it in the book that he is insane but his actions would make you think otherwise. The burning of the barn while his mother body was still in there would make him look insane but to Daryl this was a way to clearing all ur past feelings and at the same time letting the mother rest. Society uses the word crazy when they cannot explain people behaviors. They also use the word crazy when someone doesn’t give into the norm and is a little different from people.
5/6/2014 02:01:18 pm
I wonder what you mean by what type of person you are determining your sanity. Does this relate to personality, or motivations, or something else?
5/6/2014 04:20:32 pm
Darl is a little crazy, but he is trying to end the quest to Jefferson and put his mother’s body to rest in peace. Maybe his attempt at burning her mother’s body is to burn away everything his family has built up on the course of their journey. It is really sad that not all of the characters share Darl’s way of thinking. What seems justified to Darl ends up looking like madness to his family. It was very ironic that the only person capable of reaching consciousness of the complexities of life is sent to an insane asylum while the rest of the family is free. 107 words
5/14/2014 12:28:09 pm
I agree with you Nicole, what determines your sanity or insanity would be what type of person you are and how you interact with people. Darl seemed a bit inconsiderate towards Jewel at certain points, almost rubbing it in his face that he has a different father and that he would miss their mothers passing while on the road. I don’t think he was crazy, I think that he wanted to bury his mother and have her corpse/remains respected. I think that he saw the trip as a long and tedious inconvenient and it was getting in the way of having her buried properly.
5/6/2014 04:22:46 pm
In As I Lay Dying, Faulkner shows how people can band together in times of tragedy yet can criticize and abandon each other in order to pursuit their own benefits. All of the Bundren family members seem to have a goal, self-interested desire for really wanting to go to Jefferson. The goal of the Bundren family duty to Addie isn’t really the goal of their journey. Each character shares his or her perspective on the journey, except Jewel Bundren. Anse Bundren real reason to go is that he wants to buy a new set of false teeth in town and to get a new wife, like a replacement for Addie. The pregnant Dewey Dell just wants to have an abortion and she anticipates going to Jefferson’s pharmacy. Vardaman dreams of a train set in the Jefferson’s toy store window. Cash desires to purchase a gramophone and display his carpentry work in town. Darl just travels to Jefferson in order to keep his family’s actions and to make sure his mother gets a proper burial. Even Addie reveals her selfishness. She admits to having an affair with a preacher, who is Jewel’s biological father. Also, she admits she wants to be buried in Jefferson because she just wants to spend eternity as far away from the Bundren family as possible. After eight days of traveling, Darl gets tired of dragging his mother’s corpse through the county and sets fire to Gillespie’s barn and burns the coffin and his mother’s body. Darl believes that she should have been buried earlier, so Darl tries to burn the coffin in one of the most selfless acts in As I Lay Dying. The desire for the family to go to Jefferson was less sympathetic; most of them were really selfish. It only demonstrates that each member of a family is, after all, a human being.
5/14/2014 03:43:22 pm
In the novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, there's an array of different narrators, like Darl, that allow the reader to see different parts of the story. This is very important, because different characters may have a different point of view. Each character is a different age, intelligence level, and gender, which allows the reader to see different areas of the story. Also, in my opinion, I think it gives the story line itself a little more depth and flavor, since the various problems throughout the novel is seen through various views. Each one of the voices seems to represent something and brings something different to the table. From emotional, to tragic, and calm, it’s all present. The shifting of perspectives also bring up the problem of the reliability of each narrator. If there’s one narrator, we tend to trust into them just a bit more, because we are unable to see other’s views to really make a judgment about it (although there are always exceptions to this, as seen in the Cather in The Rye when Holden is the only narrator, and the readers are kind of shaky in trusting his views and stories). In this novel though, we judge based on each characters beliefs and perceptions of each event, in which leads us to making a conclusion of the reliability of a character. Each problem in the novel is creatively put together through not so structured change of narrations. Darl Brundren, is an important character, and speaks for many of the sections in this novel. He’s seems to have a seemingly intelligent way about him, especially though his descriptions. “…Jewel’s frayed and broken straw hat a full head above my own. The path runs straight as a plumb-line, worn smooth by feet and baked brick-hard by July, between the green rows laid-by cotton, to the cotton house in the center of the field, where it turns and circles the cotton house on at the four soft right angles…” (Faulkner, 3) Right in the opening of the novel, Darl describes in detail the setting with such a steady rhythm and rate that’s so smooth. His voice and point of view contains so much detail and almost a trustworthy tone that the reader really digs him. Although his sanity is highly questions and weighed by the other characters in the novel, I believe that doesn’t take away Darl’s reliability factor.
5/15/2014 04:51:18 am
“As I Lay Dying” is rare novel that unlike others includes different perspectives; in this case, fifteen of them. This then edges the reader to construct the novel themselves. Although, it is quite challenging. The reader has to figure out the multiple opposing interpretations by making a physiological insight. I believe that this affects the reader more than it affects the novel as a whole. By having different perspectives, we learn the personalities of each character by the way they think and talk to others. We also get to know them by the way that other characters think or talk about them. I find this style to be much more convenient because instead of reading through one person’s eyes, one can read through everyone’s experiences. Each shift of characters will cause the reader to have different moods, and opinions depending on the circumstances.
5/18/2014 07:13:02 pm
Wow, very well said Mari, I agree with you. Reading the novel in all different perspective of characters gives many shifts and mood changes. Different personalities engages you in different ways of thinking. Changing the narrator was helpful in this novel because It really gave a picture of how the family's lack of communication and unity and emphasize the stress Darl's mother did have, especially with her own husband. All the different perspectives helped me see how people really have their own lens towards life.
5/18/2014 06:16:16 pm
I do agree with Cash, that everyone is a little bit crazy. Craziness is determined by a judgment on how a person preserves you. If you are odd, you are an odd person, if you’re awkward then you're an awkward person if you’re crazy, you're a crazy person. Sometimes I find people looking at me like if I have calculus problems on my forehead. We all have different personalities in this world. Darl had his own unique personality, but he was known as “queer, lazy. Pg24” Caro Tull said “…That’s ever living thing the matter with Darl: he just thinks by himself too much. Pg71” Cash said, ”He then decides that if a person acts without thinking about how his actions affect other people, he is crazy.” And again from Coral Tull’s perspective, “I always said Darl was different from those others. Pg21”
5/19/2014 11:48:07 am
In, “As I lay dying”, Faulkner portrays religion in a very modern light. Taking up biblical references and mashing them into his own work. For instance, there are two figures in the story that would be deemed as “Christ like” figures, Cora and the Reverend. The characters in this story are not left without religion; they are left to explore their own beliefs through Faulkner’s magnifying glass. The bible does play a major influence on the book itself, hinting references here and there. Many characters are portrayed as sinners who are looking for a way out. Faulkner draws heavily from the bible fore themes and symbols, both from Old and New Testaments. There are ways that Faulkner incorporates modern religion into this complex book, through characters willingly admitting their sins aloud for all to hear. Many critics stress how valuable religion is in the book itself, how it stores a house full of symbols, and it is indeed a framework for other authors of their time. Faulkner considers this a teaching, a new teaching of Biblical teachings.
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