ived from her death and directly or indirectly causes actions in which each Bundren character takes advantage of Addie. With the character’s actions
revolving around her death, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying reveals the truth about the people who
surround a person may take advantage of him or her. The death of Addie Bundren shapes all of the
character’s actions in life including Addie’s final request before her death. Addie takes advantage of her
death by using it for revenge and inflicting final pains upon some characters, while the other characters use
her to get what they want for their personal needs.
Addie causes all the painful actions around her family either directly or indirectly. Addie is
foremost the prominent abuser of her upcoming death in As I Lay Dying. She predetermines her time to
die, and she makes sure that the people in her family whom she dislikes must experience her wrath before
she moves on to the next life. “Addie is the one who is dying, but she makes revenges run throughout the
family and extend beyond” (Wadlington 35). Inflicting pain mostly on Anse, Addie enjoys herself. Anse, a
lazy man, is forced by his wife to take her to Jefferson to be buried as her final request.Addie’s revenge
on Anse was payback for all the times when he just sat around while Addie, her children, and sometimes
neighbors do all the hard work for him. Also “Addie reacts to Anse’s arid conventionality by having a
clandestine affair with minister Whitfield” (Wadlington 31). Addie also indirectly hurts one of her favorite
sons, Cash. Cash is hurt indirectly when he helps !
his kinfolk carry his mother’s coffin to Jefferson, where along the path, he breaks his leg while crossing a
flooded river. Although Cash is one of Addie’s favorites besides Jewel, Addie’s cruel revenge carries over
to Cash’s broken leg, which later becomes infected. Besides her indirect action on Cash’s leg, Cash is the
most favorite of Addie. As Wadlington states, “He is very much his mother’s son in expressing his feelings
through physical action rather than through words by building a coffin for the mother he loves”
Jewel, Addie’s second favorite next to Cash, seems to be cursed by his callous mother. Jewel can only
express himself through physical actions by being cruel. Yelling and screaming is the only way Jewel
shows his love for his mother, but Jewel’s ferocity begins to wear him down physically. Saving his
mother’s coffin from going downstream and rescuing the coffin from the burning barn were some ways
Jewel showed his love, although those actions are quite extreme because Jewel could have been killed.
Addie’s revenge could have killed Jewel, but luckily it did not happen.
Addie’s revenge also affects her little son Vardaman. Teaching of the world is usually the mother’s job in
the family especially on Addie’s case since Anse is a lazy bum. As “for Vardaman, his “unknowingness”
comes from his mother’s death compounded by his family’s failure to communicate reassurance and
explanation to him” (Wadlington 56). Addie did not teach him what was in the world and manners; so as a
result, when his mother dies, Vardaman confused his mother’s death with a dead fish he caught that day.
Vardaman’s manners are reckless against Dr. Peabody when he came to nurse Addie. Vardaman action was
quite extreme when he tried to chase the doctor away because Vardaman is quite irrational in not
understanding that Dr. Peabody did not kill his mother.
Dewey Dell, Addie’s daughter, is deprived of a central motherly figure. Addie’s action in not caring enough
for her daughter leads her to become irresponsible with Lafe where Lafe impregnates Dewey Dell.
Darl, one of Addie’s least favorites, is rejected by his mother which “injured him psychologically” and led
him to burn the barn where Addie’s coffin lay resting in peace (Wadlington 30). Darl is sent to an asylum
for that demented deed, but could have been prevented if Addie showed more affection toward Darl. Darl
is gradually revealed as a rejected son who feels that his mother is not even alive because he calls her
“Addie Bundren” instead of calling her “Mother” (Wadlington 41). If Addie had cared more for her
children and spent more time with her children before her death, then possibly none of painful actions that
resulted from Addie’s presence would have happened. As a result her selfishness towards her children in
not giving enough tender love and care, her children become deprived in her life which leads to all the
characters taking advantage of Addie.
Addie’s death also reflects upon the attitudes between Cash, Darl, and Jewel. Between the three,
jealousy is prevalent. Jewel and Darl envy the love that Addie gives Cash, while Darl is Jealous of Jewel;
therefore, Darl teases him by always asking him “Who was your father?” (Faulkner 213). Cash, Darl, and
Jewel do not get along because of their bitter jealousy of each other. Jewel can never please his mother
enough, so he gets mad at Cash while Darl continues to pick on his origin of birth which causes a bitter
rivalry between the three (Wadlington 32).
Away from her family, Addie’s cruelty leads into her former teaching career where she hates her children
and wishes they where vanquished. Addie resents her children similarly in the way she resents her students
when she expressed, “When school was out and the last one had left with his dirty snuffling nose, instead of
going home, I would go down a hill to the spring where I could be quiet and hate them” (Faulkner 169).
Addie seems to portray her hatred for her schoolchildren the same way she hated her own children.
Addie’s death results in more character actions in which all characters except Jewel take advantage
of her death in order to obtain what they want. The characters use Addie’s death as an incentive to look
forward to her death and quickly take her to Jefferson. Anse, the prime tributary, grasps Addie’s death so
he can go to Jefferson to get his long and awaited false teeth. At the end of the journey to Jefferson, he
meets his new wife whose name is only presented as Mrs. Bundren to replace his old wife, Addie.
Vardaman seems to forget about his mother’s death and begins to think only about the cars in the toy store
at Jefferson where he tries to get a toy train. Dewey Dell uses Addie’s death to have a chance to go to the
pharmacies at the end of the journey to get an abortion with Lafe’s ten dollars. Cash seems to want new
tools, while Darl just wants to get the burial over with, but his task is not finished because he is sent to an
asylum. Overall, Addie uses her deat!
h to her advantage, by making her family pay and make them take her to be buried in Jefferson, while the
other characters use Addie’s death to attain what they want.
Addie is the central monstrosity against all people who surround her, which leads to the day when
she dies where her surrounding community would eventually begin to take advantage of her. All the
characters take advantage of Addie’s death even Addie herself as she gets her revenge on her whole family.
The curse of Addie enchanted over her family resembles similarly to a type of hex. If Addie is more
sincere and more of a motherly figure to her children, then possibly she would enjoy life, and her family
would enjoy her and no pain would be inflicted. If Addie expressed her love, then many people would not
dare imagine taking advantage of her, but instead, eminently respect her.
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying.
New York: Vintage International, 1985.
Wadlington, Warwick. As I Lay Dying: Stories out of Stories.
New York: Twayne Publishers, 1992.