As I Lay Dying

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

As I Lay Dying 40. Addie Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Addie recalls her days working as a schoolteacher, miserably sneaking off at the end of each afternoon to a quiet place where she could spend time hating her students. (It is not made explicit whether this chapter rewinds to the point when Addie was still alive, or is a posthumous monologue, somehow delivered by Addie's corpse inside the coffin).
Addie's sudden appearance is surprising and emphasizes the novel's interest in the multiplicity of subjective stories about the death of Addie Bundren. The lack of explanation for why the section appears now rather than earlier or later itself points to the fact that there is no objective story. Addie's cynical perspective on her students debunks the idea that she embodies the role of the beloved mother figure to begin with.
Themes
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Addie muses on her father's old saying that the reason for living is to stay dead for even longer. From there, she remembers the experience of being courted by Anse, devoted but awkward in his younger ears. After Anse and Addie got married, she quickly gave birth to Cash and Darl, leading to her depression over the loss of independence and freedom. She declares, "I knew motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it," cynically denouncing the importance of language and words. Similarly, she belittles Anse's use of the word "love" as "just a shape to fill a lack" and believes Anse to be dead to her at this point.
Addie's tepid investment in Anse explains, on some level, Anse's lack of feeling toward his wife's death despite his talk of duty. Addie de-romanticizes the experience of childbirth, pin-pointing the births of her eldest children as the starting points of her depression and of her loss of faith in words. Addie's frustration about the loss of independence brought on by having children is implicitly echoed by Dewey Dell, who is anxious that she must bear the burden of pregnancy, while Lafe is able to give her ten dollars and run off.
Themes
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Addie then begins an affair with Whitfield, the local minister. While she finds escape in the passion of the affair, she does not understand how a man of faith could do something so sinful. This causes Addie to lose faith in religious principles in general. As a result of the affair, Addie has another child—Jewel—her only non-Bundren child. To make up for her sinful behavior, Addie (and Anse) have two more children—Dewey Dell and Vardaman. Addie says: "I gave Anse Dewey Dell to negative Jewel. Then I gave him Vardaman to replace the child I had robbed him of." Finally, Addie recalls talking to Cora Tull, who prayed for Addie because she found Addie to be someone "blind to sin." Addie dismisses the ideas of sin and salvation alike as "just words."
Unlike Anse, Addie is not unaware of the existence of a moral compass, but chooses to challenge ideas of right versus wrong based on her own subjective experiences. Specifically, her affair with Whitfield casts doubt on her faith, and aggravates her general skepticism toward words and the institution of religion. Jewel's role as Addie's illegitimate child explains her affinity for him and hence further destabilizes the representation of the Bundren family as traditional.
Themes
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon