The Complexity of Family and Reality in ‘As i Lay Dying’

Exclusively available on PapersOwl
Updated: Oct 16, 2023
Cite this
Date added
Order Original Essay

How it works

William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” is a novel that encapsulates the very essence of the human experience in the context of a family’s journey to bury their deceased mother. The Bundren family’s quest to Jefferson, Mississippi, is a tale riddled with misfortune, internal conflict, and a deep dive into the intricacies of human consciousness. With fifteen distinct narrators, the novel becomes a mosaic of fragmented thoughts and perspectives, making it a masterful exploration of subjectivity and the relativity of truth.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

One cannot discuss “As I Lay Dying” without addressing its experimental structure. Each chapter is a first-person account from a different character, and through this polyphonic narration, Faulkner plays with the concept of objective reality. There is no singular truth; instead, the reader is left to piece together the narrative, understanding that each character’s perception is colored by their emotions, experiences, and motivations. This fragmented storytelling mirrors the fragmented state of the Bundren family, with each member grappling with personal crises amid the collective mission.

Addie Bundren, the deceased mother, becomes the silent epicenter of the novel. Her death propels the narrative, and though she only has one chapter of direct narration, her influence is felt throughout the story. Her chapter is a haunting reflection on life, love, and the limitations of language. It is through Addie that the reader confronts the ineffability of experience and the struggle to articulate the depths of human emotion.

The journey to Jefferson is laden with obstacles, both physical and emotional. The decaying corpse, rising floodwaters, broken limbs, and a barn fire are but a few of the calamities that befall the Bundrens. These external challenges are symbolic of the internal turmoil each family member faces. Darl, for instance, battles with existential angst, eventually succumbing to madness. Dewey Dell grapples with an unwanted pregnancy, seeking an abortion in a society that denies her agency over her own body. Cash, the stoic carpenter, diligently builds his mother’s coffin, revealing his love and respect through his craftsmanship rather than words.

The title “As I Lay Dying” suggests a focus on the act of dying, but the novel is as much about life as it is about death. It confronts the reader with questions about existence, identity, and the nature of reality. Is life merely a series of subjective experiences? Can we ever truly understand another person’s perspective? And in a world where truth is relative, what anchors us?

Faulkner’s novel doesn’t offer easy answers, but it does provide a profound exploration of these questions. The Bundren family’s journey is both tragic and absurd, a reflection of the human condition in all its complexity. Their struggles highlight the tension between individual desires and collective obligations, between the need to be understood and the inherent limitations of communication.

In the end, “As I Lay Dying” stands as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring bond of family. Despite their flaws and failings, the Bundrens persevere, driven by a mix of duty, love, and personal necessity. Their journey is a reminder that, in the face of adversity, it is often our connections with others that provide the strength to carry on. Through his richly layered narrative, Faulkner challenges us to reflect on the nature of existence and the ties that bind us to the world and to each other.

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

The Complexity of Family and Reality in 'As I Lay Dying'. (2023, Oct 16). Retrieved from