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Dysfunctional Families in Literature

In this paper I would like to compare the dysfunctional families in Eugene O'Neill's play Long Day's Journey into Night and William Faulkner's novel As I Lay Dying, focusing on Mary and Addis, the mothers in each family. The comparison will show how the disintegration of the mother in each work (Addie literally and physically disintegrating in her coffin, and Mary disintegrating emotionally and psychologically) is suggestive and symbolic of the eventual disintegration of the family. Both authors portray the mother sympathetically, as pitiful rather than evil or malicious. These are women who are as much victims as victimizers.

There are fifteen narrators in Faulkner's novel, shifting

points of view around the central figure of Addie, the mother. Her importance to her children should be the center of the book and is meant to provide an anchor of sorts for each character to find his or her own identity. While family is central to As I Lay Dying, family is a burden more than a blessing. Addie feels her father has never loved her, and her new family becomes an escape from the old. Addie's life is seen as a failure by her, and her death becomes a means of bringing the family together. Her plan succeeds only faintly, for the family does what she wants but does not become closer or more aware of their debt to her in the process. Relationships, however, are the central fact of life, and even though they may not work, they provide the individual with a sense of self and a place in the world. Darl is the only character with an awareness of this and other facts about life, and he ends up in an asylum, showing Faulkner's pessimistic view of the family.

Cora speaks of Darl's nature as it relates to Addie: "I always said he was the only one of them that had his mother's nature, had any natural affection" (Faulkner 1532). Tull speaks of Anse(s reference to the dead Addie as if she were still alive and still in charge of the fami...

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Dysfunctional Families in Literature. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 05:18, July 14, 2020, from