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Characterization in As I Lay Dying

A research paper on characterization, in As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, will show that the haphazardness of the each character's narratives is deliberate and intentional. Faulkner does not let you relax with them, does not allow you to pin down each character precisely, nor to follow either their thoughts or the story straight through. Each character has his or her own agenda, 'his and her secret and selfish thought' as Addie calls it, and it is this incongruity of agendas (the fact that each character lives in his own secret, myopic world and at the same time must live with each other character in the novel, who is also in his own secret, myopic world, etc., etc...) and fundamental motivations, that sets the plot of the novel in motion, and determines why each character does what he or she does and why the story is told in the manner that it is. For example, the following conflicts drive the characterization of the novel:

  • The conflict between Addie and Anse
  • Conflict between Jewel and Darl Characterization in As I Lay Dying

Character's Images in As I lay Dying

The images that the characters present have subtle impressions that stay with the reader throughout the short narration. For instance, Vardaman and Darl talk about how Vardaman's mother is a fish, and Jewel's mother is a horse. the word "fish" draws up vastly stronger connotations than merely the mother leaving her eggs. What about swimming?  What about a tiny fish swallowed by a bigger fish, swallowed by yet a bigger fish, and so on? There is also the image of hooks and bait. Still, it is hard to think of what Faulkner really wanted to evoke with the fish image. Perhaps it is merely saying that Vardaman's fish-mother is truly dead, as evidenced by the violence, danger, and death involved in the river crossing, the river being the fish's true element.  Thus, Jewel's horse-mother is still alive and kicking.

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