As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 12. Darl Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Although Jewel and Darl are still on their errand for Tull, Darl is somehow able to describe what is happening in Addie's room back at the Bundren home. Addie continues to call for Cash, though Dewey Dell explains that she is actually calling for Jewel. Anse explains that Darl and Jewel are away running an errand. Addie looks out the window at Cash, who has not budged from his project of making Addie's coffin. Addie calls to him again. Cash stares into the room through the window, while Anse and Vardaman sit silently and together, they all watch Addie die. Dewey Dell screams for her mother and dramatically flings herself on Addie's bed.
Darl's ability to describe what is happening without being there to witness it is an unexplained aspect of the novel, but can be seen simply as a sign of his ability to use language as a way to express his acute observations and intuitions about the world around him. This scene shows various characters respond to the actual moment of Addie's death. Cash, Anse, and Vardaman respond with silence, while Dewey Dell becomes hysterical. These disparate reactions once again show the Bundrens to have quite a unique family structure.
Themes
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Darl's thoughts then return to him and Jewel, still on their journey. Darl calls out to Jewel two times but is ignored by his brother. Then Darl's descriptions refocus again on the Bundren home, where Cash has just entered Addie's room, filled with the rest of the Bundren family members. Anse tells Cash to hurry and finish the coffin and then orders the grieving Dewey Dell to make dinner. Dewey Dell leaves the room, weeping, and without acknowledging her father. Darl then returns to his and Jewel's present scenario once again, and tells Jewel that Addie has died.
Anse's immediate ability to make orders to his children at the moment of Addie's death shows his own callous reaction to the situation, and a more general lack of sensitivity to the needs of his grieving children. He recognizes that the coffin needs to be finished and that dinner needs to be made without thinking to help with the tasks himself. Scenes like this reveal that Anse's explanations of the trip to Jefferson as a sentimentally motivated act are inauthentic.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon