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As I Lay Dying
Word Count: 2351
William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi where he became a high school drop out and was forced to work with grandfather at a bank. In 1925 Faulkner moved to New Orleans and worked as a journalist, here he met the American Sherwood Andersen, a famous short-story writer. Anderson convinced Faulkner that writing about the people and places he could identify with would improve his career as a writer. After a trip to Europe, Faulkner began to write of the fictitious Yoknapatawpha County, which was representative of Lafayette County, Mississippi. Often in this series of novels one could read of characters who were based on Faulkner’s ancestors, African Americans, Native Americans, hermits, and poor whites. At some point in this period of writing, around 1930, William Faulkner wrote the novel As I Lay Dying.
In this book, and others of this series, it was commonplace to find sentences that stretched on for a page in order to create mood, multiple narrators, or short stories complicated with a stream-of-consciousness blather that was hard to understand. Therefore, readers had difficulty following these novels, and Faulkner’s popularity soon dwindled, that is until Malcolm Cowley wrote The Portable Faulkner, which contained excerpts from the Yoknapatawpha series, and made Faulkner’s genius evident to his readers. Shortly thereafter, many of Faulkner’s works were reissued and he became a literary giant, and was even awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949. Until death, Faulkner continued to create works of literature, including both short stories and novels.
The Bundren family has recently suffered the loss of their most beloved mother, Addie. When Addie was young and fresh out of labor with her second of five children, she made her husband promise that when she died he would burry her in Jefferson, the town where Addie’s family lived. Generally Jefferson was a one or two day trip, but when a rain spell floods the river and destroys both bridges and washes out the direct road to Jefferson, Anse, Addie’s husband has to ford the river and take a much longer route to get to Jefferson. While crossing the river, a large log flowing downstream starts a chain reaction that results in a badly battered wagon, the death of a team of mules, a broken leg for the oldest of the five children, and a one-day delay in the journey. Many other troubles follow this family and the short trip to bury their mother becomes a nine-day journey with a dead body that is beginning to rot in the back of the wagon. Each of the character struggles internally throughout the novel, and when all is done, one ends up with a leg that may never work again, another is arrested, while the only Bundren daughter learns that there is no drug that will reverse a pregnancy.
Obsession, it drives people to go above and beyond, to lie and to struggle so that they can satisfy their inmost desire. In As I Lay Dying, the main idea, or theme, is that of obsession. On the surface, this novel appears to be about the Bundren family’s desire to give their mother what she wanted, even in death. However, after careful analysis it becomes evident that most of the novel’s characters actually possess an ulterior motive that drives them to be so persistent in carrying out their dead mother’s wishes.
A good man and husband, Anse has everyone convinced that he is determined to fulfill his wife’s wish to be buried in Jefferson. Especially when he acts so stubbornly about accepting help from someone other than his own family. However, he is only stubborn, because it is in his nature, not his wife’s burial wishes. As the troop draws closer and closer to Jefferson, Anse talks more and more about what he truly obsesses over. For the longest time Anse has been able to eat all the food that his family and friends enjoy so much because he no longer has all of his teeth. His one true desire is to go to the nearest town, it just so happens that it is Jefferson, and buy himself a set of false teeth so he can “eat the victuals He aimed for man
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Modernist literature, As I Lay Dying
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