As I Lay Dying

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Cash Bundren Character Analysis

Cash Bundren is the oldest son of Anse and Addie. Cash’s most notable quality is his capacity for self-sacrifice. After enduring the pain of a broken leg in a cement cast, Cash characteristically says, “It never bothered me much.” Furthermore, Cash ceaselessly spends the days preceding Addie’s death making her coffin, demonstrating his pragmatic attention to detail and his very particular way of expressing affection.

Cash Bundren Quotes in As I Lay Dying

The As I Lay Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Cash Bundren or refer to Cash 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.
22. Cash Quotes

“It won’t balance. If they want it to tote and ride on a balance, they will have …”

Related Characters: Cash Bundren (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Coffin
Page Number: 96
Explanation and Analysis:

Cash has spent a great deal of time and care hammering and sawing the coffin that will hold Addie’s body. Now, in a short but intense exchange with someone who remains unnamed (but who we will later learn is Jewel), Cash fixates on the coffin’s lack of balance, which will make it more difficult for the family to carry it to Jefferson. Cash’s intense attention to this lack of balance might seem relatively unimportant in the scheme of his mother’s death. Nonetheless, this passage underlines Cash’s own way of coming to terms with his mother’s death, by using all his technical skill in the creation of a physical object that might honor Addie. This material activity may lack verbal explanation or justification, but it is another way of responding to death – even if it is one that other characters, including Jewel, cannot understand.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other As I Lay Dying quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
34. Darl Quotes

“Jewel shouts at the horse…He is just above the top of the ford and the horse has a purchase of some sort for it surges forward, shining wetly half out of water…Cash is half turned, the reins running taut from his hand and disappearing into the water, the other hand reached back upon Addie, holding her jammed over against the high side of the wagon.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Cash Bundren, Addie Bundren
Related Symbols: Jewel's Horse
Page Number: 148-149
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl describes a scene of chaos and desperation when the family attempts to cross a river, and the wagon pitches as the horse rears up and through the water. The way Darl describes the scene imbues it with an almost mythical beauty and significance. The family’s trip to Jefferson, described skeptically by a number of the characters, becomes more than a pointless journey and suddenly takes on life-and-death implications. Cash’s insistence on keeping Addie’s coffin afloat reminds us that members of the family do have real feelings for Addie, even as they sometimes coexist with pettier, more self-interested motivations. Still, this one brief surge of heroism as the brothers strive to keep the family together and cross the river contrasts to such an extent with the rest of the voyage as to challenge the idea that the journey is really heroic and significant at all.

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.

46. Darl Quotes

“It feels fine…It’s cold. It feels fine…It feels fine”

Related Characters: Cash Bundren (speaker)
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl is beginning to mix the cement necessary to make a cast for Cash's leg, even though Cash should really be going to the doctor instead. Cash is and has been in great pain, but here as elsewhere, he refuses to show it. His repetition of "it feels fine" only makes us question how fine he really is - Cash seems to be repeating a mantra both to give himself courage and, to a certain extent, to fulfill a heroic narrative towards which he continues to strive. Nonetheless, the basic, unglamorous, and ultimately meaningless suffering of Cash's broken leg jars uncomfortably with Cash's notion of heroic duty, challenging the idea that there is heroism in the family's journey at all.

53. Cash Quotes

“Sometimes I aint so sho who’s got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint…It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.”

Related Characters: Cash Bundren (speaker), Darl Bundren
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

The family is deliberating on whether and when to send Darl away to a mental asylum. This gives Cash the opportunity to reflect on what the term "crazy" means at all - a notion that the novel has implicitly and thematically explored, given its interest in the distinction between subjective intention and experience, and the objective world. The novel as a whole raises the question, indeed, as to whether these two things are not indelibly connected; that is, if it's impossible to separate the world outside from how different people experience and interpret it. 

For Cash, Darl may be "crazy" in the eyes of the world - according to the "majority of folks" - and yet he's not at all sure that this means that Darl is definitively mad. Cash thinks that it may all depend on who has the "right" to label certain people normal and certain people crazy. While Cash doesn't explicitly meditate on the implications of this notion, they are striking: he has implied that language is enormously powerful in that how someone is labeled, the name assigned to him or her, can determine his or her life.

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. 

Get the entire As I Lay Dying LitChart as a printable PDF.
As i lay dying.pdf.medium

Cash Bundren Character Timeline in As I Lay Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Cash Bundren appears in As I Lay Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Darl
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...a bluff, Darl notices a wagon with two chairs stacked on it, arranged by the Bundrens' neighbor Vernon Tull. The brothers continue walking to the top of the bluff, where Darl... (full context)
2. Cora
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...cakes. Cora's other daughter Eula claims that Addie must either be listening to or watching Cash build her coffin. Then Darl walks in the door without looking at or talking to... (full context)
4. Jewel
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Jewel angrily dwells on the question of why Cash feels the need to hammer and saw loudly outside Addie's window, blatantly revealing to her... (full context)
11. Peabody
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...room and Dewey Dell intervenes to tell Peabody that Addie wants him to leave. Meanwhile, Cash diligently continues to build Addie's coffin outside, making lots of noise with his tools. Addie... (full context)
12. Darl
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...Darl is somehow able to describe what is happening in Addie's room back at the Bundren home. Addie continues to call for Cash, though Dewey Dell explains that she is actually... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...two times but is ignored by his brother. Then Darl's descriptions refocus again on the Bundren home, where Cash has just entered Addie's room, filled with the rest of the Bundren... (full context)
13. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...to be milked. Vardaman ignores the cow and hides in the darkness of the barn. Cash walks by without acknowledging Vardaman. Dewey Dell, who left the house to look for Vardaman,... (full context)
14. Dewey Dell
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
...between me and Lafe, like Darl did." Dewey Dell is distracted by the sound of Cash's saw, but complies with her father's request to make dinner. She prepares greens and bread,... (full context)
15. Vardaman
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
After Cash finishes Addie's coffin, Vardaman is disturbed that she will be nailed up in it. Dewey... (full context)
16. Tull
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Tull recalls the moment in which he and Cora found out that Addie Bundren had died: Cora opens the door on a stormy evening to find Peabody's loose team... (full context)
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Tull and Cora escort Vardaman back to the Bundrens' home, where Cash is still working to finish Addie's coffin. Tull helps him with the... (full context)
17. Darl
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Darl once again describes what is happening at the Bundren home after Addie's death, even as he is still on the road with Jewel. Cash... (full context)
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Cash proudly finishes the coffin before dawn—and Cash, Anse, Tull and Peabody immediately bring the coffin... (full context)
18. Cash
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
In a precise numerical list, labeled 1—13, Cash explains his decisions for making Addie's coffin on the bevel (on a slant). His most... (full context)
20. Tull
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...outside to continue their conversation. Tull goes to the back of the house and sees Cash filling up the holes in Addie's coffin. They place Addie in the coffin reversed—with her... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...minister named Whitfield comes to the house to lead Addie's funeral, but first tells the Bundrens that the local bridge has been destroyed by the river's rising waters. Cash, Armstid and... (full context)
22. Cash
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Cash attempts to explain why the coffin won't balance in an intense but short dialogue with... (full context)
23. Darl
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
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... (full context)
24. Vardaman
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Cash approaches the wagon with his tools, so that he can stop and help Tull fix... (full context)
25. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...the wagon to bury Addie in Jefferson. It is decided that Jewel will follow the Bundren wagon from behind, though Cash suggests that Jewel just stay home. Darl reasons that he... (full context)
27. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...Jewel catch up with the family in his wagon, and notices Tull wave at the Bundrens from his lot as they pass. Cash remarks off-hand that Addie's dead body will begin... (full context)
31. Tull
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Tull feels as though he is the object of the Bundrens' scorn, noticing in particular Dewey Dell and Darl's cold stares and Cash's meticulous look, as... (full context)
32. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...hears Jewel get up and climb out of his window, only to be followed by Cash. The next morning, Darl asks Cash what he saw but Cash dutifully keeps Jewel's whereabouts... (full context)
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Addie is devastated that Jewel has kept this part of his life a secret, but Cash attempts to comfort her. In the night, Darl discovers Addie lying next to Jewel's bed... (full context)
34. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Down the river from where Tull, Anse, Dewey Dell and Vardaman crossed, Darl and Cash proceed with the wagon to the ford. Jewel remains on his horse, following Darl and... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
When Jewel, Cash and Darl attempt to execute their plan, a large log rushes toward them with the... (full context)
35. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
From the other side of the riverbank, Vardaman witnesses Cash's valiant attempt to hold the coffin securely on the wagon and to keep it from... (full context)
36. Tull
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...explains how Jewel tightly gripped the rope keeping the coffin and the wagon within reach. Cash, however, was not able to swim and was rescued from the river in a highly... (full context)
37. Darl
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Cash is found lying on the side of the river wet and unconscious, next to a... (full context)
38. Cash
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Cash once again repeats the sentence, "It wasn't on a balance," referring to the coffin. He... (full context)
40. Addie
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...in his younger ears. After Anse and Addie got married, she quickly gave birth to Cash and Darl, leading to her depression over the loss of independence and freedom. She declares,... (full context)
41. Whitfield
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...the minister reaches Tull's home, one of Tull's daughters calls out to Whitfield that Addie Bundren has died. Whitfield decides not to confess, as no one in the Bundren family or... (full context)
42. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
The Bundrens strap the injured Cash on top of Addie's coffin. The family members try to talk... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
The Bundrens then continue on and arrive at Armstid's house. Upon arrival, the family collectively carries Cash... (full context)
43. Armstid
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Jewel returns to Armstid's house with a horse-physician to help Cash with his injured leg. The doctor orders Cash to drink whisky and Anse realizes that... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...must be more he gave over, Anse eventually admits that he also gave money that Cash was saving (to buy himself a graphophone, explains Darl), some money from his teeth fund,... (full context)
44. Vardaman
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
...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." (full context)
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Darl asks Cash if he should tighten or loosen the ropes keeping Cash tied down. Darl proceeds to... (full context)
46. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...the water bucket and Darl begins to mix the cement to make a cast for Cash's leg. Cash repeatedly tells the family that he can wait another day to have the... (full context)
48. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Cash begins to sweat because of his cemented leg and the temperature outside, and politely tells... (full context)
51. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Vardaman notices that the barn is burning and therefore that it "wasn't a barn now." Cash's foot turns black from the cement cast, while Jewel's back becomes red from the fire-induced... (full context)
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Anse breaks off Cash's cast and his leg begins to bleed. Darl then asks Jewel if his back hurts.... (full context)
52. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
The road-signs begin to suggest that the family is just outside of Jefferson. Cash is lying on top of Addie's coffin with shards of cement all across his leg.... (full context)
53. Cash
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Cash explains that the Bundrens needed to send Darl away to an asylum in Jackson (the... (full context)
Family, Birth, and Death 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.... (full context)
54. Peabody
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Peabody reprimands Cash for allowing Anse to treat his leg with cement. Cash deferentially answers that the family... (full context)
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Still, Cash answers that it never bothered him. Peabody answers that he probably means it never bothered... (full context)
59. Cash
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
The Bundrens—minus Darl —return to the house from which they borrowed the spades. Jewel suggests that Vardaman... (full context)