Essay, Research Paper: As I Lay Dying

Literature: William Faulkner

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In the novel As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, there are
several instances in which a pleasurable comment or action that is witty or
humorous is made by a character. However, there are also many occurrences when
there is a deep sense of disquietude resulting from a character’s words or
dealings. Throughout the text, it is also not unusual for these two types of
situations to occur as one, in a healthy confusion. This confusion may even be a
mark of superior literature according to certain critics. First, let us examine
a point in the story where there is a distinctive instance resulting in the
reader’s pleasure: “But it’s not like they cost me anything except the
baking.” (p. 9) The previous excerpt is somewhat pleasurable, because Cora
makes it a point to reinforce the fact that the cakes required no capital for
their production. Although the statement’s repetitiveness is somewhat
annoying, it is rather humorous that she is so hung up on this fact. Even though
there are references to the dying Addie Bundren in the surrounding text, there
is no great sense of disquietude concerning the situation. In the following
reference however, the feeling of disquietude is rather prevalent: “When is
she going to die?” I say. “Before we get back,” he says. “Then why are
you taking Jewel?” I say. “I want him to help me load,” he says. (p. 28)
It is most disconcerting to think that a child would be absent for the death of
his or her own mother, especially when it can clearly be avoided. In this scene
unsettledness reigns supreme, while there is an absence of pleasure. “But now
I can get them teeth. That will be a comfort. It will.” (p. 111) Here is the
apparent blending of the pleasure and the disquietude into the so-called
“healthy confusion.” It is amusing that Anse needs teeth, but quite
disturbing on the other hand that he is relieved that he can now obtain them due
to the death of his wife. In Faulkner’s novel, there is a clean balance
between the individual happenings of the two distinctly different senses of
pleasure and disquietude. On the other hand, we also encounter the fusion of the
emotions into single instances. When Faulkner achieves this confusion, it
provokes a satisfyingly odd feeling within the reader, which is perhaps the mark
of superior literature.

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