As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying 56. Vardaman Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dewey Dell takes Vardaman on a nighttime walk through the streets of Jefferson. She insists that they go in a particular direction, even as Vardaman requests that they go look at the red train in the toy-store window. Vardaman continually thinks about the fact that Darl is his brother, and that Darl is going to Jackson.
While Dewey Dell focuses on her physical health, Vardaman is concerned with the red toy train. This moment, while seemingly unimportant, draws attention to the competing self-interests that largely characterizes the Bundrens' family dynamic, and detracts from the authenticity of their shared sense of "duty" to Addie.
Themes
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Dewey Dell and Vardaman eventually stop at the pharmacy, which is the only lit store on the street. Vardaman waits outside for Dewey Dell, who is led inside by a man. As he waits, he keeps thinking to himself about how Darl is his brother, how Darl went crazy, and how Darl went to Jackson. When Dewey Dell emerges from the store, she curses, "That son of a bitch" and desperately claims, "It's not going to work. I just know it won't. I just know it."
From the vantage point of the six-year-old Vardaman, Darl's banishment is not that different from Addie's death. Both are traumatic losses that are seemingly inexplicable. Vardaman spends his time waiting preoccupied with the question of how to express his thoughts about Darl, given that Darl's existence is now different in nature than it had been previously, now that he "went crazy" and is in Jackson. Dewey Dell's bitter words reveal her total victimization: in order to get the abortion she has allowed another man to take advantage of her sexually, even as she is fairly sure she is being cheated.
Themes
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon