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As I Lay Dying

The purpose of this research is to examine themes associated with existentialism that arise in As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner. The plan of the research will be to set forth the context of As I Lay Dying as one in which themes of pessimism, anguish, and isolation predominate, and then to discuss, with particular reference to the impossibility of familial communication, how the characters in the story may be said to symbolize or enact ideas that are consistent with an existential world view.

To discuss As I Lay Dying in terms of existentialist concerns of alienation and isolation is to discuss the whole of Faulkner's opus in those terms. Set in the milieu of a journey to Jefferson to bury the mother of a family, As I Lay Dying describes a condition of man in turmoil, powerlessness, isolation, increased and aggravated by the character of their human relationships--rarely simple and unaffected, often eccentric, sometimes depraved, nearly always compelling. Seeking to placate or overcome the furious confusion of the present, they hold to an illusion of personal and social pasts. What the reader discovers as the characters travel through this space of time is not merely that life isn't what it was, but that it never was what it was. The past--the peculiar mythos of the family on one hand and the overriding ethos of the Old South on the other--offers deceptive sustenance. But evasion and persistent denial of authentic self-hood of Faulkner's characters serve to increase their guilt and sense of isolation.

One obvious indicator of the sense of isolation that pervades As I Lay Dying is the presence of so many different points of view. The novel is not told in a linear narrative form but is revealed by means of what might be called multiple first-person accounts of incidents and feelings. Chapters are titled according as they reflect the point of view of the first-person narrator, and, from the point of view of the means by...

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As I Lay Dying. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 17:53, October 01, 2020, from