Wood In William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

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In As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner uses wood as a symbol to demonstrate the degree to which each character grows and changes over the course of the novel. On one hand, wood can be seen as a representation of rigidity and a refusal to change. On the other hand, due to the fact that wood exists in many different forms – as a vertically oriented tree or as horizontally oriented planks – it is also used to outline the distinction between horizontal and vertical movement. Whereas horizontal motion represents progress, vertical orientation signifies fixation to one place and retaining a connection to one’s background. Anse is a character associated solely with vertical orientation, preventing him from experiencing any significant change. Jewel …show more content…

Jewel and his horse are consistently described as having wooden qualities: “Jewel sits on his horse like they were both made out of wood, looking straight ahead” (122). The numerous descriptions of Jewel’s “wooden face” and “wooden eyes” suggest a sense of hollowness and rigidity in Jewel’s character. This image of Jewel riding in on his horse is reminiscent of many statues depicting men on their horses, demonstrating that like these statues, Jewel is frozen in time. Here, Jewel is completely vertical – he exhibits no horizontal motion whatsoever, even his eyes are “looking straight ahead,” unmoving. Unlike other statues, which are often made of bronze, marble, or a different durable material, Jewel is made from wood, which can easily be disintegrated by the elements over time. The fact that Jewel is made from wood rather than a sturdier, more permanent material suggests Faulkner’s view that this rigidity will prove ineffective in the long-term – it will ultimately lead to the Bundrens’ downfall. After Jewel sacrifices his horse in order to purchase a new team of mules, Darl describes Jewel’s return to the family: “He is coming up the road behind us, wooden-backed, wooden-faced, moving only from his hips down. He comes up without a word, with his pale rigid eyes in his high sullen face, and gets into the wagon” (209). Unlike in the previous image, Jewel is now described as having some horizontal motion – he is walking towards the family. However, the fact that Jewel is “moving only from the hips down” suggests a lack of consistency within Jewel’s character; while his legs and everything below his hips are able to move horizontally, his head and his “pale rigid eyes” remain frozen and fixed. Even if Jewel is able to physically move

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