The Theme Of Death In Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

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One of the few things that are certain in life is that it eventually comes to an end, and this is a constant truth which applies to every person from every corner of the earth. Therefore, it is only natural that most authors have used the theme of death in their literary works. Beowulf’s heroic sacrifice, Hamlet’s philosophic pondering on the after-world, Poe’s attraction to the ominous and mysterious side of un-being, all show different aspects of this multi-faceted subject. In Faulkner’s “As I Lay Dying”, death itself can be considered to be the protagonist, and even in the mind of a child, Vardaman, who cannot fully understand it yet, it remains an obsessive and haunting thought. The youngest of the Bundren children, Vardaman is at the age when the world is full of new experiences and things to discover. He is an “observant child” (Fargnoli, Golay 52), overflowing with energy and watching the events unfold “big eyed […], like he was to a circus” (Faulkner).Death is, nevertheless, the most terrifying dilemma one can have, for it is easier to learn about things that exist in the world than try to understand what non-existing means, what is the explanation and purpose of being alive one moment and dying in the next one. Vardaman’s experience of his mother’s death was all the more terrifying as she looked directly into his eyes when she passed away: “her eyes, the life in them, rushing suddenly upon them; the two flames glare up for a steady instant. Then they go out as
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