Analyze the use of symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying
As I Lay Dying” is a novel written by William Faulkner and published in 1930. It tells the story of the Bundren family’s journey to bury their matriarch, Addie Bundren, in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. One of the notable aspects of the novel is Faulkner’s masterful use of symbolism to deepen the themes and characterizations.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-In “As I Lay Dying,” symbolism serves as a narrative tool to explore the complex relationships between the characters, shed light on their inner lives, and emphasize the novel’s central themes of death, decay, and the human condition.
One of the most prominent symbols in the novel is the decaying body of Addie Bundren. As the family travels with Addie’s corpse in a coffin, the decomposition of her body becomes a central motif. The decaying corpse symbolizes the inevitable decay and disintegration of human existence, highlighting the theme of mortality.
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Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-The foul odor emanating from the corpse also represents the festering secrets and hidden desires within the family. The smell becomes a physical manifestation of the family’s guilt, shame, and unresolved conflicts, adding to the overall sense of unease and decay that permeates the novel.
The river is another significant symbol in “As I Lay Dying.” It represents the boundary between life and death, as well as the characters’ longing for escape and renewal. At various points in the novel, characters are drawn to the river as a source of solace or a means of escape.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-For example, Cash, one of Addie’s sons, constructs her coffin by the river, and later, Jewel, another son, rescues the coffin from a flood by risking his own life. The river symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and the characters’ desire for transformation and redemption.
The journey itself, from their rural home to Jefferson, serves as a symbolic quest for salvation and the pursuit of individual desires. Each member of the Bundren family has their own motivations and secrets, and the journey becomes a catalyst for self-discovery and self-realization. The physical challenges and hardships they face on the journey mirror their internal struggles and conflicts. The quest also symbolizes the harsh realities of life and the inevitable hardships one must endure.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-Vardaman Bundren’s association with fish is another powerful symbol in the novel. After Addie’s death, Vardaman catches a fish and associates it with his mother’s life and death. He drills holes into the fish and believes that by doing so, he can understand his mother’s life and the concept of death. The fish symbolizes the elusiveness of understanding and the attempt to make sense of the incomprehensible. Vardaman’s fixation on the fish also reflects his own psychological turmoil and confusion surrounding death and loss.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-The use of animals as symbols is recurrent throughout the novel. For example, Jewel, who is often depicted as wild and untamed, is associated with horses. His attachment to his horse represents his fierce independence and his struggle to maintain his individuality within the confines of the family. The horse serves as a symbol of freedom and rebellion against societal constraints.
The buzzards that appear throughout the novel are another significant symbol. They represent death and decay, circling overhead as a constant reminder of mortality. The buzzards also reflect the harsh and unforgiving nature of the world in which the characters exist. Their presence underscores the characters’ vulnerability and the predatory nature of their surroundings.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-In addition to these symbols, Faulkner also employs recurring motifs such as the repetition of phrases and the use of multiple narrators to enhance the novel’s symbolic complexity. The fragmented and disjointed narrative style mirrors the fragmented nature of human experience and the characters’ subjective perspectives.
As I Lay Dying “Summary”
“As I Lay Dying” is a novel written by William Faulkner and published in 1930. The story takes place in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County in Mississippi and revolves around the Bundren family’s journey to fulfill their deceased matriarch’s dying wish.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-The novel is narrated through the perspectives of fifteen different characters, each with their own unique voice and perspective. The central event of the story is the death of Addie Bundren, the wife and mother of the family. As she lies on her deathbed, Addie expresses her desire to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, which is several days’ journey away.
The novel follows the Bundren family’s arduous and chaotic journey to fulfill Addie’s request. The family consists of Addie’s husband, Anse, and their five children, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. Each family member has their own motivations and struggles that unfold throughout the narrative.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-The journey is fraught with challenges and hardships. They encounter torrential rains, a broken wagon, and various conflicts among themselves and with the people they encounter along the way. The characters’ individual desires, secrets, and emotions come to the surface, adding layers of complexity to the story.
Darl, one of Addie’s sons, emerges as a central character in the narrative. He provides deep introspection and insight into the thoughts and motivations of the family members. His mental stability becomes increasingly questionable as the journey progresses, and he becomes an unreliable narrator, blurring the line between reality and perception.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-hroughout the novel, Faulkner explores themes such as death, family, love, guilt, and the human condition. The story delves into the complicated dynamics of a dysfunctional family, revealing their strengths, weaknesses, and the consequences of their actions.
“As I Lay Dying” is a complex and challenging novel that experiments with narrative style and structure. Faulkner employs stream-of-consciousness techniques and multiple perspectives to create a fragmented and intricate portrayal of the Bundren family’s journey, ultimately exploring the nature of existence and the human experience.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-William Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying” is a masterful exploration of the human condition, and symbolism plays a crucial role in enriching the narrative and deepening the themes of the novel.
Through symbols such as the decaying body of Addie Bundren, the river, the journey, fish, animals, and buzzards, Faulkner delves into the complex relationships between the characters, illuminates their inner lives, and underscores the novel’s themes of mortality, decay, and the quest for redemption.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-The decaying body of Addie Bundren symbolizes the inevitable decay and disintegration of human existence, as well as the festering secrets and hidden desires within the family. The river serves as a boundary between life and death, a source of solace, and a symbol of transformation and renewal.
The journey to Jefferson becomes a symbolic quest for salvation, self-discovery, and the pursuit of individual desires. Vardaman’s association with the fish represents the attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible nature of death, while animals such as horses and buzzards symbolize freedom, rebellion, and the harsh realities of existence.
Use symbolism in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying:-Faulkner’s skillful use of symbolism extends beyond individual objects or images. The repetition of phrases and the employment of multiple narrators create a fragmented narrative style that reflects the fragmented nature of human experience and subjective perspectives.
Through the skillful deployment of symbolism, Faulkner imbues “As I Lay Dying” with layers of meaning, inviting readers to engage with the characters’ struggles, their search for identity and understanding, and the universal themes of mortality and the human condition. The symbols in the novel enhance the complexity of the narrative, leaving a lasting impact on readers and solidifying Faulkner’s reputation as one of the most significant and innovative writers of the twentieth century.
Q. What is the plot of “As I Lay Dying”?
Ans. “As I Lay Dying” follows the Bundren family’s journey to fulfill their deceased matriarch Addie Bundren’s final wish of being buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. The story is told through the perspectives of multiple characters as they encounter various challenges, conflicts, and personal revelations along the way.
Q. How many narrators are there in the novel?
Ans. The novel has a total of fifteen narrators, each providing their own distinct perspective on the events and characters. The multiple narrators offer diverse insights into the Bundren family and their individual motivations, resulting in a complex and layered narrative.
Q. What is the significance of the title “As I Lay Dying”?
Ans. The title “As I Lay Dying” is taken from a passage in the novel where Addie Bundren reflects on her impending death. It reflects the theme of mortality and captures the fragmented and subjective nature of the narrative. The title also highlights the characters’ struggles and inner conflicts as they confront the reality of death.
Q. How does Faulkner use stream of consciousness in the novel?
Ans. Faulkner employs the literary technique of stream of consciousness, which presents the characters’ thoughts and inner monologues in a continuous, uninterrupted flow. This technique allows readers to experience the characters’ inner lives, their anxieties, desires, and fragmented perspectives, providing a deeper understanding of their motivations and psychological states.
Q. What are some major themes in “As I Lay Dying”?
Ans. Major themes in the novel include death and mortality, family and relationships, the nature of truth and reality, the burden of guilt and secrets, and the complex dynamics of rural Southern society. The novel also explores themes of identity, isolation, and the limitations of language in capturing human experiences.