As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 53. Cash Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Cash explains that the Bundrens needed to send Darl away to an asylum in Jackson (the capital of Mississippi). He explains that Gillepsie knew that Darl set fire to the barn, and threatened to sue the Bundrens—and they could only get out of it if they sent Darl away to an asylum. Cash reflects on the meaning of "crazy," as he believes humans are neither "pure crazy" nor "pure sane." Furthermore, Cash stresses his belief that Jewel is too hard on Darl. He reflects on the potential truth that God was simply trying to take Addie away more swiftly and naturally, wondering if Jewel's apparently heroic gesture of saving her coffin first from flood and then from fire was an act against God's will.
Cash's reflections on madness versus sanity speak to the novel's exploration of the difference between subjectivity and objectivity, how an action is described versus the action itself. Cash emphasizes the role that society has in making sense of and judging individual actions. This leads Cash to wonder if what Jewel thought was heroic was even heroic at all, as God could've been attempting to tell the family something. Ironically, this was Darl's rationale for burning Gillepsie's barn down.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Still, Cash thinks about how nothing explains the act of burning down a man's barn and livelihood. Anse offers to take Cash to the doctor before going to bury Addie, but Cash, in turn, offers to wait. The family proceeds to a nearby home to borrow a spade. Cash specifically takes pleasure in the music playing from a gramophone inside the house. Cash notices a woman in the window of the house. Finally, the Bundrens inter Addie's coffin in Jefferson's soil. The men from the mental institution then arrive to take Darl away. Cash and Dewey Dell try their best to calm Darl, who is suffering a sustained hysteria of laughter as he is being taken away.
In this section, Cash's narration switches to the past tense, indicating an increased sense of understanding with the situation he is describing. In particular, his dwelling on the details of the home from which Anse borrows the spades to bury Addie functions as a moment of foreshadowing. This situates Cash in a Darl-like position of being the family member who is perhaps best-equipped to express the Bundrens' dysfunctional story with details and emotional circumspection.
Themes
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon