Critical History of "As I Lay Dying"

2991 words 12 pages
Nashia Horne
28 November 2011
English 290
Critical History Assignment

Many of William Faulkner’s books, especially ‘As I Lay Dying’ focused on the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. The themes of his and other Southern authors included: a common Southern history, the significance of family, a sense of community and one’s role within it, the Church and its burdens and rewards, racial tension, land and the promise it brings, one’s social class and place, and, sometimes, the use of the Southern dialect. The criticism of the novel has changed over the years with critics using everything from Psychoanalytic theory to Marxist theory to explain the importance of language and the historical content behind the novel. In his
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She sees words as arbitrary and empty, particularly in the case of names for her children, because they don’t make her think of any actual meaning. Because of this, Addie believes that many words have lost their connection with action or life, which makes them useless. However, this is not what her community believes and teaches, so in order to connect with people, her children in particular, she needs words. Slaughter concludes that with the erasure of Addie and Darl, the two active, “doing” people in the novel, the center and action of the story are also lost by the end. Cheryl Hale’s article discusses Faulkner’s use of form throughout his novel As I Lay Dying. The “problem” with As I Lay Dying is that although the novel overtly appears to be an attempt at realism by using a stream of consciousness form in which the reader is thought to be subjected to direct mental quotations of each character, at times Faulkner utilizes diction and language either unexpected or unknown from the character. For example, in one of Dewey Dell’s chapters, a likely illiterate farm girl, incorporates the word “stertorous.” Hale argues, however, that Faulkner is indeed aware of these “mistakes” and intentionally includes them to create a hybrid literally form that is not in fact mimetic realism. Instead it is a form that utilizes language not as an agent for transparent communication but instead as a medium for distinguishing the realms of


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