As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 13. Vardaman Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Vardaman runs out of the house and begins to cry after looking at the place in the dust where he placed the fish he caught. He notices that the fish he caught, now cut up, has become "not-fish" and "not-blood," which is now on his hands in overalls.
Vardaman uses his own six-year-old intuition to relate the death of the fish he caught to the death of his mother. He immediately chooses to deal with these difficult questions of mortality and existence by focusing on how they can be expressed in language.
Themes
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
As he runs, Vardaman continues to cry and repeats the phrase "He kilt her. He kilt her," blaming Peabody for his mother's death. He picks up a stick and continues to scream and cry as he whacks Peabody's horses, addressing them as if they were Peabody himself: "You kilt my maw!...You kilt her!" The horses run from Vardaman's wrath. Vardaman notices a cow in the barn that wants to be milked. Vardaman ignores the cow and hides in the darkness of the barn. Cash walks by without acknowledging Vardaman. Dewey Dell, who left the house to look for Vardaman, calls out his name. Yet Vardaman ignores her and remains in the dark, telling himself that he is not afraid.
Vardaman's belief that Peabody killed Addie is not vindictive but another way that he, as a young child, attempts to make sense of the apparently cruel reality of Addie's ceased existence. His quickness to reach understanding through blame echoes Anse's reactions to the family's misfortune in his earlier chapter, and once again points to the human tendency to rationalize feelings and actions with language as a way to gain control over difficult situations.
Themes
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon