As I Lay Dying

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

Dewey Dell Bundren Character Analysis

Dewey Dell is the second-to-youngest Bundren child, and the only daughter of Anse and Addie. Dewey Dell does not narrate many sections throughout the novel, though she is arguably one of the most tragic characters in the book: she is impregnated by the farmhand Lafe, who then leaves her with nothing more than ten dollars for an abortion. Later, she is cheated by a drug store clerk into having sex with him and then is given what she is sure (correctly) is fake medicine. Just pages later, Anse takes her abortion money to buy his teeth, leaving Dewy Dell with next to nothing at the end of the novel.

Dewey Dell Bundren Quotes in As I Lay Dying

The As I Lay Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Dewey Dell Bundren or refer to Dewey Dell 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.
7. Dewey Dell Quotes

“And so it was because I could not help it. It was then, and then I saw Darl and he knew. He said he knew without the words like he told me that ma is going to die without words…And that’s why I can talk to him with knowing with hating because he knows.”

Related Characters: Dewey Dell Bundren (speaker), Darl Bundren
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Dewey Dell is remembering the difficult moments leading up to sleeping with Lafe, including her attempts to get out of it, and now her current worry is that she may be pregnant. Now she has recognized that Darl somehow knows this, even without her telling anyone. The rest of the family also recognizes this ability of Darl's, a kind of omniscience that suggests that Darl is more like an author, one who knows his character's actions because he writes them, rather than like other characters subject to laws beyond their control.

For Dewey Dell, Darl's near-mystical knowledge is a relief, as she is spared the shame and indignity of having to tell him or others what she has gone through. Instead, she can take some solace in simply sharing knowing gazes with him, in search of familial connection that so often is not fulfilled in other ways in this family.

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!
30. Dewey Dell Quotes

“I heard that my mother is dead. I wish I had time to let her die. I wish I had time to wish I had.”

Related Characters: Dewey Dell Bundren (speaker), Addie Bundren
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

As the family approaches the (potentially) aptly named New Hope, Dewey Dell clings to the possibility of a new leaf even as she continues to grapple with her own problems. Here, she admits to herself that Addie has died while Dewey Dell herself was preoccupied with other matters – not necessarily with petty desires like Anse, but with her pregnancy and chances for an abortion, all of which she must hide from her family and from those around her. Dewey Dell expresses regret that she didn’t have the “time” to let her mother die, suggesting that death is something that snuck up on her while she wasn’t paying attention, something that she hasn’t had time to come to terms with or seek to understand. Immediately, however, Dewey Dell acknowledges that she hasn’t even had the time to fully have these regrets, busy as she’s been with everything else going on her life. Dewey Dell’s acknowledgement of the distance between her mother’s death and her own feelings and experiences suggests just how disjointed and apart the various experiences of the characters in the novel can be – a lack of unity underlined by the multiple perspectives and voices that make up the narrative.

49. Vardaman Quotes

“And I saw something Dewey Dell told me not to tell nobody. It is not about pa and it is not about Cash and it is not about Jewel and it is not about Dewey Dell and it is not about me.”

Related Characters: Vardaman Bundren (speaker), Darl Bundren, Dewey Dell Bundren
Related Symbols: The Coffin
Page Number: 215
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl has assured Vardaman, as they walk outside, that he has heard Addie speaking to them from within her coffin: she has told them to remove her from the sight of man. Darl's language seems to be derived from the Bible, and is another reminder of how differently and creatively the characters use faith and religion in pursuit of their own interests and in following their own particular beliefs.

This passage in particular underlines the specific perspective of Vardaman in the family, as the youngest and the child who must rely the most on the knowledge and protection of the others. As if in an example of rote learning from school, Vardaman goes through the list of people not involved in what Dewey Dell told him. By doing so he believes that he's still obeying Dewey Dell, but he also reveals his limited understanding as he clings to the words available to him in a confusing and constantly changing context.

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

Dewey Dell Bundren Character Timeline in As I Lay Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Dewey Dell Bundren appears in As I Lay Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
6. Cora
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...Christian, someone who will die surrounded by the love and respect of her Christian family. Dewey Dell asks Darl what he wants, but Darl does not answer and instead continues to stare... (full context)
7. Dewey Dell
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
As she sits next to Addie on her deathbed, Dewey Dell reflects on the experience harvesting cotton with Lafe, a laborer on the Bundrens' farm. She... (full context)
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Dewey Dell then has the realization that Darl knows about her experience with Lafe, saying, "He said... (full context)
10. Darl
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Darl then recalls the moment when he accused Dewey Dell of wanting Addie to die just so she can get to town. In asking Dewey... (full context)
11. Peabody
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...to help Peabody up the hill. When Peabody finally gets to the house, he notices Dewey Dell standing by Addie's bed, fanning her mother who appears dead except for vague movement in... (full context)
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...sooner and Anse makes empty excuses. The two men go back inside Addie's room and Dewey Dell intervenes to tell Peabody that Addie wants him to leave. Meanwhile, Cash diligently continues to... (full context)
12. Darl
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...in Addie's room back at the Bundren home. Addie continues to call for Cash, though Dewey Dell explains that she is actually calling for Jewel. Anse explains that Darl and Jewel are... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...members. Anse tells Cash to hurry and finish the coffin and then orders the grieving Dewey Dell to make dinner. Dewey Dell leaves the room, weeping, and without acknowledging her father. Darl... (full context)
13. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...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, calls out his name. Yet Vardaman... (full context)
14. Dewey Dell
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Dewey Dell preoccupies herself once again with thoughts of her potential pregnancy, referring to herself as a... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
As Dewey Dell enters the barn, she sees the same cow waiting to be milked. She tells it... (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
...Cash finishes Addie's coffin, Vardaman is disturbed that she will be nailed up in it. Dewey Dell comforts Vardaman by telling him that they will get bananas for the trip to Jefferson,... (full context)
20. Tull
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...that it is not a good day to fish, but Vardaman stubbornly resists and swears Dewey Dell has seen a fish in the bog. (full context)
24. Vardaman
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...plan is disrespectful and to leave his tools at home. Similarly, Anse gets annoyed when Dewey Dell approaches with a package that she claims to hold Cora Tull's cakes, so she can... (full context)
25. Darl
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Darl watches Anse go toward the barn as Dewey Dell approaches carrying a basket in one arm and a package wrapped in newspaper in the... (full context)
30. Dewey Dell
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
The Bundrens end up passing the sign for New Hope. Dewey Dell repeats the name "New Hope" in her head out of apparent excitement. She also begins... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Cataloguing all of her relationships with her brothers, Dewey Dell first imagines killing Darl with the knife Vardaman used to cut up the fish he... (full context)
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...why they are not going to New Hope but the family remains silent in response. Dewey Dell repeats to herself that she believes in God. (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 though Tull were the coffin Cash... (full context)
32. Darl
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...that I knew. I knew that as plain on that day as I knew about Dewey Dell on that day." (full context)
33. Tull
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Tull helps Anse, Dewey Dell and Vardaman cross the river, offering Vardaman in particular a hand as he walks across.... (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... (full context)
35. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...coffin securely on the wagon and to keep it from falling into the rushing water. Dewey Dell screams Vardaman's name as he watches Cash finally lose his grip. Vardaman hollers for Darl... (full context)
37. Darl
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...tools in particular. The family and Tull attempt to wake Cash up from his unconsciousness: Dewey Dell addresses Cash by name as she lifts his head, while the others hold his tools,... (full context)
40. Addie
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...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 negative Jewel. Then I gave... (full context)
44. Vardaman
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...pain on his face, Cash denies that it bothers him. Meanwhile, Darl snidely remarks to Dewey Dell that the cakes she is carrying will "be in fine shape" by the time they... (full context)
45. Moseley
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...girl looking inside the store-window with a blank look on her face. The girl is Dewey Dell . She eventually comes into the store, carrying a package wrapped in newspaper and appearing... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Disturbed by his encounter with Dewey Dell , Moseley then learns more about the Bundrens from his colleague Albert. Apparently, Anse was... (full context)
46. Darl
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...family and their mules make a pit-stop in front of a house, and Darl tells Dewey Dell to go inside and ask for a bucket to retrieve water. Darl then tells Dewey... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Dewey Dell returns with the water bucket and Darl begins to mix the cement to make a... (full context)
47. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Vardaman, Darl, Jewel and Dewey Dell walk up the hill. Vardaman mentally narrates the situation in simple, declarative sentences: "Jewel came... (full context)
49. Vardaman
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...two brothers return inside to check on Cash. Vardaman states that he saw something that Dewey Dell told him not to talk about—something that concerns Darl. (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Dewey Dell and Vardaman go to sleep outside on the porch, from which the barn is visible.... (full context)
50. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
...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. (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
51. Vardaman
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...turns black from the cement cast, while Jewel's back becomes red from the fire-induced burns. Dewey Dell rubs medicine on it, which then makes it also turn black. (full context)
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...do something the other night when he was looking where the buzzards go and that Dewey Dell said he should keep a secret. (full context)
52. Darl
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
...cement all across his leg. Anse states that they must take him to a doctor. Dewey Dell asks to stop and despite the fuss Anse makes, he allows her to go into... (full context)
53. Cash
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
55. MacGowan
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Dewey Dell enters the Jefferson pharmacy when MacGowan is on duty. Since he finds Dewey Dell to... (full context)
56. Vardaman
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Dewey Dell takes Vardaman on a nighttime walk through the streets of Jefferson. She insists that they... (full context)
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Dewey Dell and Vardaman eventually stop at the pharmacy, which is the only lit store on the... (full context)
58. Dewey Dell
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Anse spots Dewey Dell 's ten dollars, initially given to her by Lafe and still left over from the... (full context)
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Dewey Dell repeats again and again that the money is not hers, but Anse does not care... (full context)