The following Ralph Ellison quote is often found on the book jackets of William Faulkner's novels: For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics. In The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying the South is central to his thematic intentions, and that South is in many ways a metaphor for man at large. However, there are aspects to both novels that comment specifically on the South and is regionally significant to that South, both Old and New. One aspect is the thematic centrality of female characters. Female characters are the main vehicle through which Faulkner comments on the downfall of the Old South, provides criticisms regarding the direction of the New South and suggestions colored with his moral purpose for a better direction in which he would like to witness his beloved South take.
[...] In As I Lay Dying, the character of Darl is imbued with a similar significance as Quentin. Darl says, don't know what I am. I don't know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or (80). Darl is confused regarding his identity, and he attributes it to his own self-knowledge of not having self- knowledge. This loss of identity parallels Quentin's confusion because both are unable to exist in the New South. [...]
[...] This is similar to Faulkner's thematic intentions the The Sound and the Fury because if Caddy and Miss Quentin were not alienated, then the Compsons may be saved, but as Dilsey reminds the reader, “I've seed de first en de last, [ ] I seed de beginnin, en now I sees de endin” (297). The Compson line cannot continue, and thus they are not fulfilling their duty to live because they cannot cope with the darkness that Addie speaks of; in many ways, they are too caught up in words and the past to overcome it, and Addie's refusal to be imprisoned by words, force her to place emphasis on action. [...]
[...] In As I Lay Dying Faulkner creates the female characters of Addie Bundren, Dewey Dell, and Cora to make similar comments regarding the fall of the Old South and the emergence of the New South, specifically with regards to the absence of a maternal figure. The character of Addie Bundren is perhaps one of the most haunting and complex characters Faulkner wrestles with. One of the things Addie is obsessed with is her father's saying “that the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time” (169). [...]
[...] The significance of the parallels between the male characters in both novels is hinged upon their attachment and relationship to the female characters of both novels. In The Sound and the Fury, Mrs. Compson, Caddy, Ms. Quentin, and Dilsey are female characters who symbolize different aspects of the South. The character of Mrs. Compson is obsessed with the appearance of things: when Caddy carries a handicapped Benjy, she says, of our women have pride themselves on their carriage. Do you want to look like a washerwoman” and when Caddy calls her brother Benjy instead of Maury, Mrs. [...]
[...] Cora is another female character in As I Lay Dying, and represents the impotency and useless of religion and self-righteous judgment in the South. Throughout the novel Cora judges characters such as Jewel, Anse, and Addie under the pretense of God. She says things like, that when I lay me down in the consciousness of my duty and reward I will be surrounded by loving faces, carrying the farewell kiss of each of my loved ones into my reward. Not like Addie Bundren dying alone, hiding her pride and her broken heart” (23). [...]
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