As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 11. Peabody Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Bundrens' doctor Peabody finally comes to their household, and is surprised that Anse has waited so long to call. As a seventy-year-old man who weights two hundred some pounds, Peabody has a great deal of trouble walking up the bluff in order to get to the Bundrens' house. Anse apologizes and sends Vardaman to get rope to help Peabody up the hill. When Peabody finally gets to the house, he notices Dewey Dell standing by Addie's bed, fanning her mother who appears dead except for vague movement in her eyes, which makes Peabody feel as though she is watching him.
As a doctor, Peabody's initial appearance offers a sense of potential hope to the story; though of course, when Peabody arrives, he tells Anse that he was called too late. Peabody's response to Anse once again emphasizes Anse's selfishness and laziness, despite his repeated statements about his duty to Addie and his desire to fulfill it heroically. As an outsider, Peabody's presence also provides a contrast to the Bundren family perspectives.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Outside Addie's room, Peabody directly confronts Anse about why he did not send for a doctor sooner and Anse makes empty excuses. The two men go back inside Addie's room and Dewey Dell intervenes to tell Peabody that Addie wants him to leave. Meanwhile, Cash diligently continues to build Addie's coffin outside, making lots of noise with his tools. Addie screams Cash's name but is not met with a response.
This scene shows how various characters surrounding Addie's deathbed cope with the fact of her death. Removed from the family, Peabody responds with practical concerns. Dewey Dell listens to her mother, while Cash shows affection through action, by dutifully building her coffin. Addie's screaming, however, calls into question whether Cash's actions actually take into account Addie's needs or desires.
Themes
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon