Darl Bundren In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

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Insanity takes different forms. Some harm themselves or are a danger to others. Darl Bundren, however, is declared insane because he thinks differently from his family and twentieth century society. Darl serves as the primary narrator in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, a story of one dysfunctional family’s journey through the Mississippi countryside to the town of Jefferson to bury their matriarch. With the greatest number of monologues, Darl acts as a surrogate for Faulkner. His intuitive ability to penetrate the minds of others and see through their facades enables him to provide the most objective, however blunt, commentary. His sanity becomes questioned more as the novel progresses, but he still labors as a reliable narrator in how he…show more content…
Addie Bundren is going to die?” to make him accept the fact that their mother will not live for much longer (Faulkner 40). Darl is seen as being atypical because he does not mourn, or pretend to mourn, as the rest of his family does. His words may come off as being a sadistic joke in light of his mother’s ill health, but he actually wishes to tell Jewel here that the situation will not change. Darl’s cognizance of Addie’s death when he is not near her is a sign of his attachment to Addie. He cares for his mother and for his brother. While the relationship between Darl and Jewel is a strained one, Darl aims to help Jewel come to terms with the fate of his mother’s health. Darl later questions Jewel about who his father is, as he knows that Anse is not his real father. Upon arriving at the Gillespie farm, Darl taunts Jewel by asking him, “Whose son are you?” (Faulkner 212). Darl prods Jewel to force him to understand his place within the Bundren family; he knows that Jewel is the result of Addie’s affair with minister Whitfield. Jewel separates himself from his family, and Darl’s biting comments act to assist Jewel in connecting with the family. Darl’s harsh words to Jewel…show more content…
He surmises that opinions define insanity, proclaiming, “It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way a majority of folks is looking at him when he does it” (Faulkner 233). His disturbance with Darl’s fate compels him to break away from his neutral voice and muse over the complex concept of what establishes insanity, a considerable departure from his mundane thoughts. He speaks in the past tense and elucidates that society determines what constitutes insanity, not a person’s actions. He goes on to reveal that “I thought more than once before we crossed the river and after… and then when Darl seen that it looked like one of us would have to do something, I can almost believe he done right in a way” (Faulkner 233). His narration in the past tense indicates that he has reflected on the subject matter for a significant time, yet while he makes sense of Darl’s rationale to burn down Mr. Gillespie’s barn, he also recognizes how important a barn is to a farmer. In the end, his sympathy lies more with Mr. Gillespie and he reasons that Darl’s action is nefarious enough to have him hospitalized. In choosing to use qualifiers such as “almost” and “in a way,” Cash chooses to edge on the side of caution. Even he is afraid of completely agreeing with Darl, adhering to social norms instead of standing up to his family for Darl’s necessary action. Cash recognizes
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