Heroism In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

764 Words4 Pages
William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying follows the Bundren family on a journey while it explores the subject of heroism and discusses its subjectivity. The family travels on an expedition to bury Addie, the deceased mother of the protagonist, Darl Bundren, and his siblings. As days continue to pass, however, the journey seemed interminable. During the adventure, the family takes a stop at Gillespie’s barn for the evening. While they rest Darl sets the barn, in which the coffin sits, ablaze. Darl Bundren’s act of arson exhibits heroism because he performed the act for the sake of others. Faulkner uses irony to subvert the preconceived notions of heroism. Although the protagonist was sent to a mental institute at the end of the novel for…show more content…
Addie’s coffin began to exude a repulsive stench, illustrating the longevity of the journey and that Addie must be put to rest soon. Darl takes the opportunity to finally put Addie to rest by cremating her. Faulkner clarifies that Darl’s actions were done deliberately when he attempts to stop Jewel from going into the barn to retrieve Addie’s coffin. Darl cries “Catch him!...Stop him!” (Faulkner, 75) because Jewel was ruining Darls plan to finally put Addie to rest. When Jewel recovers Addie’s coffin, Darl is described as crying on top of the coffin later that night. As Darl sobbs, Vardaman approaches him and reassures he “needn't to cry,...Jewel got her out. You needn't to cry, Darl”(Faulkner, 77). Faulkner’s choice of Vanderman, the most prominent symbol of innocence, to approach Darl allows the readers to have the perspective of an innocent child. Vanderman believed that Darl was weeping because he almost lost Addie’s coffin. However, differing viewpoints explain that Darl was weeping because his attempt at putting Addie to rest had failed. His tears are shed as an apology to Addie for his failure. Darl’s actions, although a crime, were done for a heroic reason; to end the extensive quest. He endangers himself to allow Addie to rest peacefully after the plethora of merciless obstacles they have
Open Document