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William Faulkner: As I Lay Dying


Dewey Dell: Only daughter, thoughts consumed with her own problems about being pregnant.

As the only sister, she is somewhat removed from the family situation. She is extremely selfish and thinks merely of herself: "He could do so much for me if he just would. He could do everything for me." (p. 58)

When Addie dies all Dewey Dell says is that "I heard that my mother is dead. I wish I had time to let her die. I wish I had time to wish I had." (p. 120) These are more examples of her selfish nature. Preoccupied with her pregnancy, she doesn't really participate in any of the dangerous situations, except when she decides to yell. She mainly screams when Jewel is in danger as they are extremely close in age and she has a special bond with him.

However, she does step up and help the family when Cash nearly drowns in the river crossing. She stays by his side and helps him by situating him and wiping his mouth. When the family finally reaches Jefferson, Dewey Dell becomes self-consumed and focuses only on finding a way to rid herself of the baby: she is ripped off by the pretend "doctor." In the very end she feels obligated to help her family, mainly Anse, with his selfish tendencies. (p. 256)

Vernon Tull: Neighbor to the Bundrens, wealthier than them, frequently helps the family out.

As the helpful neighbor, he begins to feel obligated to continue to help the Bundren family. He is married to Cora, an extremely religious person; however, Vernon doesn't seem so devotedly religious. He is constantly helping and people seem to have quite a bit of respect for his ideas and thoughts. Cora talks about how much she appreciates him as a husband:" for in my husband and children I have been more blessed than most, trials though they have been at times." (p. 22). Another difference between Vernon and Cora is that Vernon is less likely to jump to conclusions; he is very calm and stable throughout the entire story: "It stands to reason they'd send for us if they need us." (p. 69) Vernon has a deep respect for Cash's determination with the casket, "I have seen him spend a hour trimming out a wedge like it was glass." (p. 87) Vernon seems to become burnt out with helping the Bundren family: "I done holp him so much already I can't quit now." (p. 33) He is down to earth and doesn't jump to conclusions (p. 69). Vernon also expresses his blessing with finding such a great wife. (p. 71)


Anse: Husband of Addie, others see him as lazy, while he blames his bad luck, hunchbacked, relies on others to complete tasks/make decisions, selfish.

Anse avoids blame by crediting how he merely is cursed with bad luck or by blaming his children (whom he raised). Quotes -- pp. 18, 35, 36, 37, 38, 77

Even his one "noble" pursuit -- fulfilling Addie's last wish of being buried in Jefferson -- is overshadowed by the ulterior motive of getting a new set of false teeth. Quote -- p. 52

Anse's awkwardness is another part of his personality. He may try to fix or do things properly, but no matter what he messes it up and needs others to do it for him. Quote -- p. 78

Anse also doesn't seem to realize the other town peoples' perception of him -- he harshly judges his children even though others have no respect for him either. However, he does understand that his own children dislike him. Quotes -- pp. 105, 106

Anse's feelings of being cheated dominate much of his personality -- he thinks he's been cheated by life in terms of luck, and here, for example, he feels that Jewel has cheated him out of work he's owed to his family. Quote -- p. 136

Anse's nature of using his misfortune as a way to justify himself is outlined when he says, "'I do the best I can,' he said. 'Fore God, if there were ere a man in the living world suffered the trials and floutings I have suffered'" (p. 189) Anse never truly takes any responsibility for his actions, but rather blames his rotten luck for decisions he has to make.

When the others attack Anse for swapping their things in order to buy a pack of mules, it's interesting that Anse uses his desire to get new teeth (p. 191) as his justification, not to bury Addie, as he had been saying. All along, I believe, Anse's motivation for getting to Jefferson had been selfish, even though he had stated that his actions were all for Addie (p. 182).

When Mr. Gillespie yells at Anse for putting cement on Cash's leg saying, "'Why in the tarnation you put it on there. Didn't one of you think to grease his leg first?'" (p. 224), Anse replies saying, "'I just aimed to help him,' pa said. 'It was Darl put it on'" (p. 224). This reply from Anse is typical of his character; although he has made a mistake, he is unable to recognize this and instead shifts the blame to Darl, his own son.

What others say/think about Anse:

Cora Tull feels nothing but contempt for Anse. She believes that he is selfish, greedy, and lazy, using neighbors like her husband to help him out whenever possible. Quotes -- pp. 21, 22

Dewey Dell sees how her father uses his neighbors in order to save himself from hard work or trouble. Quote -- p. 26

After years of helping Anse, Tull thinks of Anse as someone who makes more trouble for himself than necessary and then places the burden on others. His thought, "the only burden Anse Bundren's ever had is himself" is true; although Anse chooses to blame his bad luck instead. Quotes -- pp. 30, 32, 33, 72, 73, 92, 123,137

p. 42 (Peabody) "And I knew that if it had finally occurred to Anse himself that he needed [a doctor], it was already too late."

p. 89 (Samson) "'It's like a man that's let everything slide all his life to get set on something that will make the most trouble for everybody he knows.'"

When Cora is talking with Tull about what happened during the wagon crossing she states that if Anse had been a man he would have been on the wagon, "instead of making his sons do what he dursn't." (p. 153) Anse's highly selfish nature is exactly what people like Cora dislike about Anse -- although he insists on getting Addie to Jefferson, he does not want to partake in the difficult work that it requires. But it's interesting that when the attempt to cross the river fails, Tull blames Anse for it (p. 154) because he is essentially the initiator of this entire fiasco.

Addie's description of Anse's matter-of-fact courtship (p. 170-171) explains a lot about why he seems so unmoved by her death and why he was such a poor father to her children; their relationship was not created because of love but because of convenience.

Armstid describes how there is, "something about a durn fellow like Anse that seems to make a man have to help him, even when he knows he'll be wanting to kick himself next minute (p. 192). This "something" that Anse has is basically what saves him in most situations; I'm not sure what this something about him is, but I guess it has to do with his utter helplessness and inability to take care of himself and his family.

Whitfield: the local preacher who comes to give Addie's funeral service

So far, Whitfield's words sound like those of a typical minister. (p. 88) "'I was late because the bridge has gone. I went down to the old ford and swum my horse over, the Lord protecting me. His grace be upon this house.'"

Although Whitfield has made serious mistakes in terms of his spiritual goodness, he continues to believe that he is in God's good favor. His resolution to confess everything to Anse, for example, disappears when he learns that Addie has died and had never mentioned the affair, stating that just his intention to confess is good equal to the actual confession (p. 179)

It's also interesting how Whitfield's crossing of the river was relatively easy, while the Bundrens' was impossible -- suggesting the unfairness of divine justice (?)

What others say/think about Whitfield:

Because Darl describes that Whitfield's voice and body don't seem to belong together, I wonder if this places some doubt upon his words or actions -- like that maybe what he says doesn't match with what he does. >>> p. 91 "Whitfield begins. His voice is bigger than him. It's like they are not the same. It's like he is one, and his voice is one, swimming on two horses side by side across the ford and coming into the house, the mud-splashed one and the one that never even got wet, triumphant and sad."

It's ironic that Cora condemns Addie for having pride and states that not even prayers from Whitfield can save her (p. 167) because soon after she says this it is learned that Whitfield had an affair with Addie and is the father of Jewel, rendering his entire character as fake.


Jewel: Son, taller than the other children of Addie and Anse, coarse, independent, has a strange, strong love for his mother that the other characters lack and misunderstand.

Jewel's monologues cease near the beginning of the novel, which makes him mysterious and highlights his separation from his family. This separation might arise from the fact that he is Whitfield's son rather than Anse's; the rest of the family often describe Jewel as "wooden" and hard to read. Darl can often understand Jewel, perhaps because of his telepathic abilities, but otherwise Jewel is the novel's biggest mystery.

Jewel's apparent coldness is misperceived by characters such as Cora as disregard for his mother. Cora says that she "...would have flailed him time and time again" because she thinks he is a bad son.

Jewel's love for his mother and his dedication to the family is communicated through his actions, even though he does not vocalize his feelings. Jewel was Addie's favorite child, probably because his father is Whitfield, and Jewel reciprocates by caring deeply for Addie and doing everything in his power to ensure that her final wish is carried out.

When Cash is building Addie's coffin outside her window, it is Jewel that worries: "Good God do you want her to see it?" Jewel lifts her coffin single-handedly into the wagon : "pick it up, Goddamn you, pick it up"

It is also Jewel who saves Addie's coffin from the river and saves it from the burning barn, which demonstrate how deeply he cares for his mother.

Peabody: The obese doctor who comes to see Addie right before she dies.

Peabody is the extremely fat doctor whose perspective offers an outside view of the family. He thinks that the Bundrens are irresponsible, and is extremely critical of the way that Anse treats his children. At the beginning of the novel, Peabody treats Addie. In going to treat her, however, he already knows that "if it (summoning a doctor) had finally occurred to Anse, it was too late."

Later, when Peabody attends to Cash, he says: "God Almighty, why didn't Anse carry you to the nearest sawmill and stick your leg in the saw? That would have cured it. Then you could have stuck his head into the saw and cured a whole family..."



He is a neighbor of the Bundrens who helps retrieve Peabody's team. He kind of thinks he "knows it all," or is at least knowledgable and practical of the surrounding area. He provides hospatality to the Bundrens after they cross the river.

Armstid harbors the Bundrens after they cross the river. He doesn't understand why they don't just bury the Addie nearer to home, but still provides a warm hospitality towards the family. He is also confused by their unwillingness to accept his gifts and comforts. Eventually the family leaves his house to continue their journey.

Vardaman: Youngest son, imaginative, confused.

Vardaman is the youngest son and seems to struggle emotionally with his mother's death. He is confused, correlating the death of his mother with that of the gutting of the fish, which is catalzyed by the arrival of Peabody. Consequently, he thinks his mom is a fish. He is upset fairly easily and has a kind of innocent child-like curiosity about him. It also seems like he is kind of the forgotten yongest, as becomes evident when he goes to the barn to cry about the death of his mom. At such a young age, it would be normal to try and find comfort in another but Vardaman turns to the solitude of being alone to release his feelings. Quotes -- pp. 56, 84

Vardaman views situations in an imaginative way, providing a poetic perspective in certain aspects of the book. Whether the "wagon and pa walk on the sun," or he goes "across the moon," or the mom is a fish, the imagination of Vardaman helps to paint the world as a child would see it; in an abstract like way. Yet such a way, while producing a world of imagery, also has the effect of giving the reader a clearer, less-obstructed view of what is happening. Instead of wading through the dense thoughtful monologues of the adult characters, the reader gets an unclouded view. S/he gets the stark, terse thoughts of a young child, gets mental pictures, and not the murky subjective ideas of an older person.

Vardaman is also very innocent. He finds certain things out (like Darl's burning the barn) but must keep such insights a secret. He is tied to his siblings and is upset by his mother's death. But, like most of the other characters in the book, he too has an underlying selfish desire; while he is journying for his mother's burial, he also wants to go and get the red train set.

What others say/think about Vardaman:

Others see Vardaman as just a child. They are continually having to find him when he wanders off and asking him to do certain chores. The Tulls see Vardaman as being physcologically unstable as a result of his upbringing. He is seen as that "poor soul." Quotes -- pp. 70, 72


Cash: Son, good carpenter, patient, selfless, loyal, more of a "doing" character rather than a "thinking" character like Darl.

Oldest son of Addie and Anse. He is a great carpenter, who shows his love for his mother through his building of her coffin. He hopes to make the perfect coffin for her just the way she wanted it. His tools seem to be the most important aspect of his life. (Family tries to find them all after they are lost in the river.) He seems to be liked by mostly everyone in this story because he seems to not be having any arguments or controversies with any of the other characters.

Cash is more methodical and analytical: when written about, sentences tend to be short and to the point.

He seems to care a lot about not putting the family out of the way. When he breaks his leg and the other family members want to take him to the doctor or when they want to fix his leg, he continuously says that he is ok and that he can last.

At the end Cash does not stand up for his brother, Darl, and instead creates a reasoned response to his going to the asylum. This can be looked on as betrayal: because he doesn't help save his brother, or this can be his own way of showing emotion and is therefore not betrayal. Cash is void of any outwardly emotional characteristics and tends to just work on his building or on helping the family as well as he can once he gets hurt.

Addie: Wife of Anse, mother to Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman, wants to be buried in Jefferson

Addie: We learn from Addie that she believes words are unnecessary and inadequate to reveal true feelings and emotions. During her chapter she explains that she had children because she felt she owed that to Anse. After having the affair with Whitfield and having Jewel, she has another child to compensate Anse for Jewel. She is not a caring motherly figure, yet her children still love her and compete for her love.

When she dies she has Anse and the family bury her in Jefferson: this is a way for her to take revenge on Anse. Only this revenge hurts the children more than anything.

Addie seems to have a lasting and greater affect on her family now that she is dead: she still communicates with Darl and the entire family is following what she wants, instead of what may be rational.


Darl: Son, introspective, insightful into others' thoughts and actions, some find this insightfulness strange, has natural affection, cerebral.

Darl has a deeper intellectual level than the rest of his family. He spends much of his time in the inner parts of his mind thinking about things on a more intense level than other characters. He views Cash as savage and unattached as he builds the coffin. Quote -- p. 78

Darl has internal monologues about life and death as his way of dealing with his mother's death and further defining "life" Quote -- p.80

Views Jewel as someone who has extremely involved with his horse and sees him as "wooden" and notices how Jewel does not have alot of communication with other characters. Quote -- p.94 Darl also feels Jewel is more concerned with his horse than his mothers death.

Darl also has a some-what telepathic mind set and has accurate predictions of what is happening. He knows instantly when and how his mother died although he was not there when it happened.

Darl is also not self-absorbed like Dewey Dell or Anse.

Throughout the book, Darl has an objective viewpoint on scenarios and has the ability to describe things even when he is not present. Darl is not a very active character, although he does take it upon himself to burn the barn, so therefore he can look back at situations and have a clear view of it.

Darl describes the crossing of the river scene poetically, and brings the river to life: "...the log rears in a long sluggish lunge between us, bearing down upon the team...the wagon sheers crosswise, poised on the crest of the ford as the log strikes it...I see the beared head of the rearing log strike up again." (p.148-149)

Darl was in a war: "Darl had a little spy-glass he got in France at the war." (p. 254) The war may have affected Darl and his outlook onlife. Darl is introspective and thinks about things unlike any other character. After serving in the war, Darl may look at life differently and think about it more in the depths of his mind rather than communicating his thoughts with people.

What others say/think about Darl:

Some people view Darl as crazy. Quote -- p.24

Cora thinks Darl is the only one sincere towards his mother and sad that she is dying. Quote -- p.21 She also likes him best out of the whole family.

Jewel is clearly offended when Darl insults him by saying that Jewel should not be worried because his horse didn't die. Quote -- pp. 94-95

Tull notices the intensity which Darl looks at people but sees that it could be perceived as awkward. Quote -- p. 125

After Darl is sent to an institution, Cash is troubled by their family's actions but eventually realizes "...it is better so for him. This world is not his world; this life his life." (p. 261)

Cora Tull: Neighbor to the Bundrens, wife of Vernon Tull, religious Christian woman, judgmental of the Bundren family -- especially Addie and Anse, helps the family out of Christian duty.

Cora is an obvious Christian woman and is the only character in the story who incessantly talks about God. She helps Addie at her bedside while she is dying. She feels that Anse is being judged and punished with his wifes death. Quote -- p. 72

Cora likes Darl and feels that he sincerely is sad about his mother's death, and she likes him best ouf of the whole family.

She is an optimistic woman even when her cakes are not sold after she bakes them. Quote -- p.8

Cora feels superior to the Burden family and believes that she will die with all her loyal family by her side and they will all truly love her. Quotes -- p.22, p.23, p. 69, p. 73. She feels she gets strength from God and he is a crucial part of her life.

Cora is judgemental of Addie and we get to see this perspective in the middle of the story. "She had never been pure religious." (p. 166) Cora believes she is an extremely righteous and godly woman and also judges Addie for not loving Darl enough: "When the only sin she ever committed was being partial to Jewel that never loved her and was its own punishment, in preference to Darl that was touched by God Himself." (p.167-168)

Cora tries to make Addie pure: "...she had spoken sacrilege. And I went down on my knees right there. I begged her to kneel and open her heart and cast from it the devil of vanity." (p.168)

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