The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.
(excerpt—Faulkner’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech)
Analyzing character in a Faulkner novel is like trying to reach the bottom of a bottomless pit because Faulkner’s characters often lack ration, speak in telegraphed stream-of-consciousness, and rarely if ever lend themselves to ready analysis. This is particularly true in As I Lay Dying, a novel of a fragmented and dysfunctional family told through fragmented chapters. Each character reveals their perspective in different chapters, but the perspectives are true to life in that though they all reveal information about the Bundren family and their struggles to exist they are all limited by the perspective of the character providing the revelations. The story centers on the death of the mother of the Bundren clan, Addie, whose imminent death creates fragmentation and chaos in the Bundren family because Anse, Addie’s husband, has promised to travel to Jefferson to bury her with her family. Floods, fires, injuries and poor decisions mar the journey, but the family endures and Anse brings home a new Mrs. Bundren. However, Anse, often read as the most selfish Bundren is the only one prepared to go on with life and accept Addie’s death.
Others in the family are not so ready to accept the displacement of their mother so readily. Among them, Vardaman and Dewey Dell are often portrayed as the least individualized characters in the Bundren family. Someone once suggests he is a “frightened, perhaps deranged child” and she is a “female vegetable.” These suggestions might be a bit extreme, but definitely these two Bundren children are the least developed. Vardaman loves his mother but is a pre-teen child. After he catches a big fish he has one chapter where the only line expressed is “My mother is a fish” (Faulkner 79). This demo...