As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 44. Vardaman Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Vardaman obsessively counts the number of buzzards, traveling in black circles around Addie's coffin. Vardaman listens to Darl ask Cash how his broken leg is feeling, and Cash replies that "It don't bother none."
Vardaman's attention to the buzzards reveal his sustained interest in what existence entails after death. Cash's full-on denial of his own pain is almost farcical, and thus no longer has continued resonance with Christ. Instead, Cash's exaggerated stoicism challenges the meaning of heroism. Cash is heroic in withstanding the pain in his leg, but for what?
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Darl asks Cash if he should tighten or loosen the ropes keeping Cash tied down. Darl proceeds to tighten them and repeats the question to Cash of whether or not it hurts. Despite visible pain on his face, Cash denies that it bothers him. Meanwhile, Darl snidely remarks to Dewey Dell that the cakes she is carrying will "be in fine shape" by the time they arrive in Jefferson. Vardaman continues to count the number of buzzards, which are only increasing as time passes.
While Darl's choice to repeat his question to Cash is provocative, it also shows that he is the Bundren family member who most readily and frequently expresses his opinions out loud. Similarly, he draws attention to the supposed cakes that Dewey Dell has been carrying, foreshadowing that Dewey Dell is not, in fact, carrying cakes.
Themes
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon