Identity In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

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Often in literature a specific character is essential to illuminating the larger themes of the piece. In William Faulkner’s novel As I Lay Dying, imagery and language are used to illustrate the fragility of existence and identity shown through his characters’ consciousness. The story revolves around the Bundren family, who are poor country folk, depicting an already ill Addie Bundren, whose dying wish is to be buried in Jefferson and her family’s journey getting her there. The family endures multiple obstacles before finally being able to burry Addie, along the way we see each character’s internal battles as well. Addie’s death triggers the reoccurring thought of death within the characters, ultimately altering their identities. Faulkner uses his ability to alter characters in order to portray…show more content…
This is magnified when Peabody arrives to check on her and describes her as if, “she has been dead these ten days” as “her face is wasted away so that the bones draw just under the skin in white lines” (38,5). Peabody’s description symbolizes the lack of life that Addie possessed near the end, showing how a person can still be alive but not exist. Through Darl’s narration of Addie’s death Faulkner again uses imagery to depict the uncertainty of identity and existence, “Her eyes, the life in them; the two flames glare up for a steady instant. Then they go out as though someone had leaned down and blown upon them” (43). It is Addie’s death that inspires the characters to question the strength of existence; Jewel fuels his emotions into loving his horse, Vardaman thinks himself into talking gibberish and thinks of his mother as a fish, and Darl believes that Addie no longer exists, “I cannot love my mother because I have no mother” (86). Through this Faulkner is able to convey how death may possibly erase what remains of one’s life after they cease to
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