As I Lay Dying

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Anse Bundren is the husband of Addie and the father of the Bundren children. Described by Darl as a man who “tells people that if he sweats he will die,” Anse is one of the most selfish and unsympathetic characters in the novel. He explains the journey to Jefferson as a promise to Addie, but ends up replacing her at the novel’s end, introducing his children to a new “Mrs. Bundren.”

Anse Bundren Quotes in As I Lay Dying

The As I Lay Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Anse Bundren or refer to Anse Bundren. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of As I Lay Dying published in 1991.
8. Tull Quotes

“Her [Addie’s] mind is set on it.”

Related Characters: Anse Bundren (speaker), Addie Bundren
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

As Tull continues to show patience and generosity in his relationship with the Bundren family, Anse explains their need to leave for Jefferson immediately. "Her mind is set on it" will be repeated several times: it is a kind of mantra by which Anse excuses and justifies the family's actions. The phrase suggests that Anse is acting selflessly and kindly, only following exactly what his wife wants. He suggests that Addie would not stand for things being any other way - making the journey something undertaken out of duty rather than out of desire. This claim of heroic familial duty will characterize many of the characters' attitudes towards their journey to Jefferson, even as it is questioned by others.

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9. Anse Quotes

“I have heard men cuss their luck, and right, for they were sinful men. But I do not say it’s a curse on me, because I have done no wrong to be cussed by.”

Related Characters: Anse Bundren (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

As Anse sits on the porch, he meditates on his bad fortune and curses whatever he can think of, from the rain to his own sons. Here, Anse distinguishes himself from other people, who may also curse their luck, but shouldn't, since they are "sinful" and deserve the bad fortune that they have. Anse, rather, claims that he hasn't done anything wrong, so he doesn't deserve his own misfortune: indeed, the fact that he carries on regardless is a sign of his heroic commitment in the face of evil. Anse's notions of his own heroism clash, of course, with the self-interested way in which he evaluates his own life, and with his lack of self-awareness on his limited judgment.

26. Anse Quotes

“I told him not to bring that horse out of respect for his dead ma, because it wouldn’t look right, him prancing along on a durn circus animal and her wanting us all to be in the wagon….”

Related Characters: Anse Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Addie Bundren
Related Symbols: Jewel's Horse
Page Number: 105
Explanation and Analysis:

Anse is angry that Jewel wants to bring his horse along as the family travels to Jefferson. Here, Anse claims that Jewel is acting out of self-interest, wanting to ride his horse just to show off, and failing to be somber and serious enough in a way that would honor Addie’s life and death. Anse also argues that Addie would have wanted the entire family to be in the wagon together, making Jewel’s choice even more disrespectful.

Nonetheless, Anse’s arguments are weak at best, disingenuous at worst. We have already seen how Jewel is perhaps the member of the family who was closest to Addie and who feels her loss most profoundly. Anse, meanwhile, has been more preoccupied with himself than with anyone else. His understanding of family duty seems to have much more to do with empty actions, gestures devoid of substance, which look right but fail to mean anything. Anse’s fixation on what Jewel’s horse will look like – a “circus animal” – further underlines his interest in appearances more than in actual family obligations and duties, not to mention sincere love and connection.

28. Anse Quotes

“But now I can get them teeth. That will be a comfort. It will.”

Related Characters: Anse Bundren (speaker)
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:

Anse has reassured himself, after learning that floods and a downed bridge will impede the family’s trip to Jefferson, that he is after all a chosen man of God – and that this means that he’ll be able to do what he really wants to in Jefferson after all. We learn, here, that what Anse’s thoughts really turn to regarding Jefferson is not Addie’s burial but rather the opportunity to get a new set of false teeth. Once again we see that his apparent embrace of heroic sacrifice and duty on the part of the family consists of no more than empty gestures. Indeed, his true desire to go to Jefferson is not only more self-interested than what he claims, but the opposite of heroic. The example of false teeth could not stress more strongly how petty and even silly Anse’s own self-avowedly “heroic” goals and motivations are.

40. Addie Quotes

“So I took Anse. And when I knew that I had Cash, I knew that living was terrible and that this was the answer to it. That was when I learned that words are no good; that words don’t ever fit even what they are trying to say at.”

Related Characters: Addie Bundren (speaker), Cash Bundren, Anse Bundren
Page Number: 171
Explanation and Analysis:

Speaking either from the grave or in a flashback to the time before her death, Addie reflects on the trajectory of her life since she decided to marry Anse. Here, Addie portrays the act of starting a family, of having children, not as an exciting step or meaningful action but rather as devoid of any greater significance. Indeed, for Addie "motherhood" or "family" are no more than words, words that people think mean something, but in fact only mask the suffering involved in living. 

Addie is thus on the side of Jewel in terms of a skepticism towards language: unlike Jewel, however, she does not simply embrace action over language, but critiques one while refusing to align with the other. Addie's pessimism may be intense, but it is rooted in her direct experience of living and in her understanding of the meaninglessness of categories and events by which other people ascribe significance to their lives.

59. Cash Quotes

“It’s Cash and Jewel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell…Meet Mrs. Bundren.”

Related Characters: Anse Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Cash Bundren, Dewey Dell Bundren, Vardaman Bundren
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

These, the last lines of As I Lay Dying, return to the profoundly somber and pessimistic tone present throughout the novel, as well as its biting irony. Anse has married the woman whose shovels he had borrowed just the day before in order to bury Addie. The supposedly "heroic" journey of the family to Jefferson is therefore definitively revealed to be, at least on Anse's part, no more than a chance for him to fulfill his own selfish interests. 

At the same time, however, by ending with suggestions of the Bundrens' future with a new family (without Darl, and with a new stepmother), the novel suggests that families can shift, expand, contract, and still survive - even, or especially, when these changes are cause for skepticism and pessimism more than cause for joy. As we've seen throughout the book, different characters have had different interpretations regarding the meaning of Addie's death and the meaning of their voyage to bury her. While the novel does give Anse the last word literally regarding this meaning, it's not at all clear that his is the last word on the subject in the more metaphorical sense - suggesting instead that ideas such as heroism and the meaning of death and life are fluid, expansive, and open to interpretation. 

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Anse Bundren Character Timeline in As I Lay Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Anse Bundren appears in As I Lay Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
3. Darl
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Anse Bundren and Vernon Tull sit on the Bundrens' back porch as Darl makes his return... (full context)
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Darl tells Anse that Jewel is down in the barn, where he is attempting to mount his horse,... (full context)
5. Darl
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Darl and Jewel prepare to run an errand for Vernon Tull. Anse cautions the boys against leaving, fearing they will still be away at the time of... (full context)
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...seemed more like herself recently, though Jewel is angered by Tull's interference in the situation. Anse then begins to discuss potential arrangements for carting Addie's coffin to Jefferson, but is silenced... (full context)
6. Cora
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...to bury Addie in Jefferson. Cora finds the plan preposterous, while Vernon defends it using Anse's argument—that it was Addie's "own wish." Cora dismisses her husband for listening to Anse and... (full context)
8. Tull
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Tull tells Anse not to worry about Jewel and Darl's trip and that they'll be back before long.... (full context)
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Vardaman emerges from the hill with a dead fish in his hand, proudly telling Anse and Tull that he plans to show it to Addie. Anse does not praise Vardaman... (full context)
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...and get in their wagon, along with their daughters Kate and Eula. Kate hypothesizes that Anse will get another wife before the cotton-picking season. The rest of the family then discusses... (full context)
9. Anse
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Still sitting on the porch, Anse curses the road, the rain, and finally, his sons. He believes the road by the... (full context)
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...the house with the fish chopped up, and with his own body covered in blood. Anse tells Vardaman to go wash his hands, and Vardaman asks if his mother is still... (full context)
11. Peabody
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The Bundrens' doctor Peabody finally comes to their household, and is surprised that Anse has waited so long to call. As a seventy-year-old man who weights two hundred some... (full context)
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Outside Addie's room, Peabody directly confronts Anse about why he did not send for a doctor sooner and Anse makes empty excuses.... (full context)
12. Darl
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...to call for Cash, though Dewey Dell explains that she is actually calling for Jewel. Anse explains that Darl and Jewel are away running an errand. Addie looks out the window... (full context)
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...Cash has just entered Addie's room, filled with the rest of the Bundren family members. Anse tells Cash to hurry and finish the coffin and then orders the grieving Dewey Dell... (full context)
14. Dewey Dell
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...bread, but claims she does not have enough time to cook the fish Vardaman caught. Anse complains about the meagerness of the meal. When Cash comes into eat, he tells everyone... (full context)
15. Vardaman
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Vardaman notices that Anse walks around—and then corrects himself, "His shadow walks around." He then looks at Addie, about... (full context)
16. Tull
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...Tull reasons that Vardaman's nonsensical words and strange behavior are signs of God's judgment upon Anse for being a negligent father. (full context)
17. Darl
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...Jewel. Cash continues to work diligently on completing the coffin, despite the rain. Cash tells Anse to stop helping him and instead to go get something to cover their lantern. Cora... (full context)
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Cash proudly finishes the coffin before dawn—and Cash, Anse, Tull and Peabody immediately bring the coffin inside. Darl shifts his focus to his and... (full context)
20. Tull
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...will be swept away by the rising waters and asks Quick if he has told Anse. Quick says he has and that Anse assured him that they will be able to... (full context)
23. Darl
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Darl describes the experience of lifting Addie's coffin with Cash, Jewel and Anse. It is revealed that the family member who had cursed Cash (in the previous section)... (full context)
24. Vardaman
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...toy store. As the family makes preparations to leave, Jewel heads to the barn, ignoring Anse's call for him to come back. Anse tells Jewel to leave his prized horse at... (full context)
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...he can stop and help Tull fix his roof on the way back from Jefferson. Anse tells Cash that his plan is disrespectful and to leave his tools at home. Similarly,... (full context)
25. Darl
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Darl watches Anse go toward the barn as Dewey Dell approaches carrying a basket in one arm and... (full context)
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The family gathers in the wagon and Anse laments Jewel's inconsiderate behavior—specifically his obsession with his horse and the related face that he... (full context)
26. Anse
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Anse gets worked up about Jewel's desire to bring his horse on the journey, thinking it... (full context)
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Darl laughs and Anse wonders how and why his son is able to laugh with his dead mother in... (full context)
28. Anse
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Anse complains about how hard his life is as a farmer and laments that "nowhere in... (full context)
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...but reminds himself that he is a chosen man of God. Despite the unfortunate situation, Anse takes solace in the fact that he will be getting new teeth upon arrival in... (full context)
29. Samson
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...believe that the Bundrens are traveling such a long distance with a dead body, despite Anse's claim that their journey is based on "a promise." Rachel expresses distaste at her husband... (full context)
31. Tull
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...wagon passes, Tull takes out his mule and decides to follow the family. Tull notices Anse and the rest of the family members gathering at the edge of the river, despite... (full context)
32. Darl
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...Addie would rationalize enforce the other siblings to take over Jewel's share of chores so Anse would not find out about Jewel's negligence. (full context)
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...morning in November, five months later, Jewel returns home one day on a horse. When Anse asks where he got the horse, Jewel replies that he bought it from Mr. Quick.... (full context)
33. Tull
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Tull thinks about Anse's haplessness and the potential danger of crossing the river with the coffin. Anse challenges Tull... (full context)
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Tull helps Anse, Dewey Dell and Vardaman cross the river, offering Vardaman in particular a hand as he... (full context)
34. Darl
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Down the river from where Tull, Anse, Dewey Dell and Vardaman crossed, Darl and Cash proceed with the wagon to the ford.... (full context)
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...along the riverbank. Because of the strong surge of water from the river's rapid current, Anse's mules have been drowned. (full context)
36. Tull
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...thinks both that the hand of God brought the log to the river, and that Anse is at fault. (full context)
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...hearing Vardaman's loud cries as he ran past him and into the water. Tull blames Anse for the misfortune of the situation, and explains how Jewel tightly gripped the rope keeping... (full context)
40. Addie
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
42. Darl
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...collectively carries Cash in the house. Armstid generously offers them shelter in the house, though Anse declares that they will be fine in the shed. Anse then asks if Armstid would... (full context)
43. Armstid
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Armstid attempts to help Anse troubleshoot the question of where to get more mules, first suggesting that he ask Snopes,... (full context)
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Anse leaves Armstid's house the next morning with Jewel's horse, riding off to inquire Snopes about... (full context)
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Anse triumphantly returns boasting of the fact that he got the family a new team of... (full context)
45. Moseley
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...with Dewey Dell, Moseley then learns more about the Bundrens from his colleague Albert. Apparently, Anse was approached by a town marshal that same day because of the smell of "rotten... (full context)
46. Darl
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...tells Dewey Dell that she seems to have had trouble selling the cakes in Mottson. Anse, meanwhile, repeats the phrase, "I wouldn't be beholden. God knows." (full context)
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...missing, returns to the family silently. No longer with a horse, Jewel boards the wagon. Anse points out the upcoming hill and tells his children to get out and walk. (full context)
49. Vardaman
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...porch, from which the barn is visible. Vardaman notices Gillepsie's son help Jewel, Darl and Anse move the coffin from below the apple tree outside indoors to the barn. Vardaman, as... (full context)
50. Darl
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...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... (full context)
51. Vardaman
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Anse breaks off Cash's cast and his leg begins to bleed. Darl then asks Jewel if... (full context)
52. Darl
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...is lying on top of Addie's coffin with shards of cement all across his leg. Anse states that they must take him to a doctor. Dewey Dell asks to stop and... (full context)
53. Cash
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...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... (full context)
54. Peabody
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Peabody reprimands Cash for allowing Anse to treat his leg with cement. Cash deferentially answers that the family just intended to... (full context)
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...answers that it never bothered him. Peabody answers that he probably means it never bothered Anse, and launches into a diatribe against Anse's selfishness and negligence as a parent. (full context)
58. Dewey Dell
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Anse spots Dewey Dell's ten dollars, initially given to her by Lafe and still left over... (full context)
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Dewey Dell repeats again and again that the money is not hers, but Anse does not care to listen to her. He takes the money and leaves. (full context)
59. Cash
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...house from which they borrowed the spades. Jewel suggests that Vardaman go return them, but Anse insists that he do it, and ends up staying inside the house for a long... (full context)
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The next day, Anse goes out again and tells the family that they will meet later to leave Jefferson... (full context)