As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 14. Dewey Dell Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dewey Dell preoccupies herself once again with thoughts of her potential pregnancy, referring to herself as a "little tub of guts." She thinks of how much Peabody could help her in an ideal and unrealistic world. She claims, "I would let him come in between me and Lafe, like Darl did." Dewey Dell is distracted by the sound of Cash's saw, but complies with her father's request to make dinner. She prepares greens and bread, but claims she does not have enough time to cook the fish Vardaman caught. Anse complains about the meagerness of the meal. When Cash comes into eat, he tells everyone that Peabody's team of horses has been let loose. Dewey Dell leaves to look for the still-missing Vardaman.
Although Dewey Dell is hysterical at the moment of Addie's death, she expresses self-interested concerns in this chapter. She is so distracted by her possible pregnancy that she ignores the issue of death, and does not have enough time to prepare dinner. The fact that this is Dewey Dell's first direct reaction to her mother's death emphasizes the theme of self-interest versus duty that pervades the novel, and calls into question the Bundrens' publicly expressed reasons for going to Jefferson.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
As Dewey Dell enters the barn, she sees the same cow waiting to be milked. She tells it to wait, still focused on finding Vardaman. She passes the stall, repeating Lafe's name to herself until she hears sounds from within the stall. It is Vardaman. She accuses Vardaman of being a sneak, paranoid that he heard her reciting Lafe's name again and again. Dewey Dell chides Vardaman for running off and for his aggressive behavior toward Peabody and his horses. She shakes him and tells him to eat dinner, as he continues to cry, eventually roaming out of the barn. Dewey Dell remains alone, still thinking about Peabody's potential help regarding her situation.
Dewey Dell continues to be overwhelmed by anxiety about personal issues, even as she fulfills her apparent duty as a sibling to search for Vardaman. In addition to destabilizing the authenticity of her sense of duty to Addie, Dewey Dell's distractedness destabilizes any romantic notions of how family operates, especially in the face of such grief. This is especially clear given that Dewey Dell's concerns focus around a potential birth, revealing the often un-romantic causes for child-birth, the beginning of a family.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon