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As I Lay Dying - Faulkner: Anse's and Addie's ambiguous concepts of loyalty

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  1. Anse's loyalty to his wife's last wishes
  2. Anse's real motives
  3. Anse's hypocrisy
  4. Addie's loyalty to Anse

In As I lay Dying, written in 1930, William Faulkner tells about the Bundren family and their journey to Jefferson. The mother, Addie, has passed away so her family drives her to Jefferson where she wanted to be buried. The respect of Addie's last wishes is actually the whole purpose of the story, the reason why her family has to do such a long and perilous journey. If Addie wanted to be buried there with her family it is mostly because she was unhappy with Anse. She did not love him - nor most of their children in fact - and even resented him for the life she had. It was after Darl's birth that she told Anse of her wish to be buried with her own people: "And when Darl was born I asked Anse to promise to take me back to Jefferson when I died" (Addie's section).

[...] Furthermore, even if Anse always claims that he just tries to respect Addie's last wishes, he does not respect Addie's dead body at all. He lets it rotting away in the hot July weather, the buzzards following the wagon during the whole journey. The only one who seems to really care about this is Darl, but he is rewarded by ending up in a mental institution Mostly because of Anse actually, as the novel does not clearly state if Darl's madness is real or if it is a plot set up by Anse in order to avoid paying for the damages his son has caused. [...]


[...] In her section, Addie tells how she met Anse and why she married him. In the description she gives it is clear that she has never loved him: He had a word, too. Love, he called it. ( ) I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time Came, you wouldn't need a word for that (Addie's section). Furthermore, she uses the connector word so many times when talking about him. [...]


[...] However, because she is herself the narrator of this section the unreliability of what she says has to be taken into account. In conclusion, there is a clear ambiguity in Anse's motivation to get to Jefferson. The reader may first think that he is just deeply loyal to his dead wife, but it is soon discovered that he has ulterior motives and personal interests in this journey. Finally, the end of the novel does not leave the slightest doubt about Anse's private aspirations. [...]

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