As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 29. Samson Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Just before sunset, Samson is sitting on his porch with fellow farmers. The men discuss what the Bundrens are doing on their road and the farmer named Quick tells them about their quest to bury Addie in Jefferson. Because of the recently sunken bridge, the men worry about the Bundrens' journey, so Quick catches up with the family to give them the news. The Bundrens decide to turn back around and head to Samson's home. Samson offers to give them shelter for the night and the Bundrens agree simply to stay in his barn. Anse, however, talks of not wanting to accept any favors from anyone, which annoys Samson. The Bundrens plan to leave for New Hope in the morning.
Samson and the other local farmers provide commentary on the Bundrens and their journey, reinforcing the sense of strangeness that characterizes the Bundrens as a family. Anse's pattern of reiterating his self-sufficiency and desire to avoid favors again proves to be his unsuccessful way of trying to mask his true nature—self-interested and lazy, despite all his talk of being a dutiful husband to Addie.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Samson's wife Rachel cannot believe that the Bundrens are traveling such a long distance with a dead body, despite Anse's claim that their journey is based on "a promise." Rachel expresses distaste at her husband for accommodating the family, though Samson also thinks strongly that the Bundrens' journey is absurd. The next morning, Samson remains inside his house until he hears the Bundrens leave the barn. Yet even after the family leaves, Samson can still smell the putrid scent of Addie's corpse.
For good reason, both Samson and his wife Rachel are annoyed by Anse's false performance of duty, as they believe him to be distasteful and the Bundrens' journey in general to be farcical. The opinions of Samson and Rachel, as outsiders, reinforce the contrast between Anse's personal motivations and those he talks about. This contrast is one that characterizes the cases of almost all of the other Bundren characters as well.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon