As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 50. Darl Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Darl and Jewel sprint toward the barn. Darl describes the burning barn and notices the sense of urgency and hostility in Jewel's fire-reflecting glare. Anse, Gillepsie, Dewey Dell and Vardaman emerge from inside the house afterward, to witness what is going on outside.
Despite his usual capacity for expression and observation, Darl omits the fact that he set fire to the barn as a "heroic" attempt to put an end to the Bundrens' journey. Instead, he focuses on his rivalry with Jewel and Jewel's competing "heroic" impulse to deal with the fire.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Jewel, appearing furious and with "muscles ridged through his garment," enters the barn to save Gillepsie's animals as well as the Bundren's mules. After saving all of the animals, Jewel then single-handedly rescues Addie's coffin from the fire. Dewey Dell protectively calls after Jewel, while Darl marvels in the sight of his brother "enclosed in a thin nimbus of fire."
After saving Addie's coffin from the river and fire, Jewel fulfills Addie's prophecy that he will save her from both flood and fire. This sets Jewel, rather than Cash, in relationship to Christ as a figure of salvation, and reinforces the authenticity of Jewel's sense of duty to Addie. Still, the powerful opposition between Darl and Jewel regarding the apocalyptic obstacle of the fire principally calls into question the novel's meaning of heroism. Darl heroically tried to end the quest; Jewel heroically prolongs it. Heroism is not black and white, and can have contrasting goals.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon