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As I Lay Dying

Expanding on the modernist tradition of utilizing stream-of-consciousness narratives to capture human consciousness and perceptions of reality, Faulkner created an innovative structure in his compelling rendition of the transportation of Addie Bundren's body to Jefferson. Consisting of multiple internal narratives of different narrators with distinctive voices and perspectives (Millgate, 1966), the structure of Faulkner's (1990) As I Lay Dying reinforces the major themes of the novel. The themes are: a) the oppression of women within the patriarchal system; b) the isolation of the members of the Bundren family from one another; c) the failure of language in forging human connection; and d) betrayal. In this paper, the four major themes will be discussed concisely. In addition, the difficulties of eliciting the meaning of the book and the role of the book structure in generating alternative interpretations will be explored.

The theme of the oppression of women within the patriarchal system is revealed in the comparison between the opposing perspectives of Addie Bundren and Cora Tull. Constrained by the patriarchal society's limited conception of a woman's identity, women in Southern society were unable to develop their individuality beyond the roles of wife and mother. While women such as Cora Tull accepted and embraced a woman's roles in life (Faulkner, 1990, p. 166), Addie Bundren struggled against these social expectations of a woman. From her perspective, Cora's celebration of a woman's life was based on "high dead words" (Faulkner, 1990, p. 167) that reinforced the illusion created by the patriarchal system: "When [Cash] was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn't care whether there was a word for it or not" (Faulkner, 1990, p. 171). For Addie, being a wife and mother enabled others to "violate" her aloneness and freedom to be her...

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As I Lay Dying. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 15:32, August 15, 2020, from