As I Lay Dying

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Jewel is the bastard son of Addie and Whitfield, the local minister. Jewel is the novel’s most evasive character, as he appears consistently in other narrators’ chapters but only narrates one chapter himself. Jewel is often described by Darl as looking “wooden,” a description that captures his stubborn sense of independence and drive, separate from the rest of the Bundren clan.

Jewel Quotes in As I Lay Dying

The As I Lay Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Jewel or refer to Jewel. 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.
1. Darl Quotes

“Jewel, fifteen feet behind me, looking straight ahead, steps in a single stride through the window. Still staring straight ahead, his pale eyes like wood set into his wooden face, he crosses the floor in four strides with the rigid gravity of a cigar store Indian dressed in patched overalls and endued with life from the hips down, and steps in a single stride through the opposite window and into the path again just as I come around the corner.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl and his brother Jewel are walking through a field on their way home, and here they come across an old cottonhouse. Darl watches as Jewel steps right through it as Darl goes around it. These two motions, straight versus curved, direct versus indirect, can be understood as metaphoric descriptions of the two brothers' quite distinct characters. Jewel is focused on actions and results. If something is in his way, he will plow right through it, never stopping to consider the challenge or to question himself or his actions.

Darl, in turn, takes a more circuitous route. He is inclined to think deeply about the world around him and about his place within it. Even this passage, which comes to us through his perspective, shows a strong sense of the beauty of language on its own, not for what it can do or enact but for the charm of comparisons like Jewel to a cigar store Indian, his eyes to wood. The ability to observe and notice one's lived experience is implied, here, to be individual and even random - the fact that the brothers don't share it suggests that there is little "natural" glue of character or experience holding a family together.

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4. Jewel Quotes

“It would just be me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill at their faces, picking them up and throwing them down the hill, faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet.”

Related Characters: Jewel (speaker), Addie Bundren
Related Symbols: The Coffin
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

Jewel is angry about Cash's incessant hammering and sawing that can be heard from within the house - Cash is preparing the coffin for the dying Addie. Here, he may not employ the kind of rich, complex language that his brother Darl can make use of, but that certainly doesn't mean that he's incapable of feeling or powerfully describing his feelings. Jewel feels alienated and alone within the Bundren family: the only person he feels a connection with is Addie, and she is now dying. 

While Cash may think he is honoring his mother by making a coffin for her, this has nothing to do with familial duty in Jewel's eyes. In this passage he imagines a heroic final battle involving him and his mother against the rest of the family before Addie dies. This image seems to be derived in some part from mythical or Biblical stories, but Jewel is vague on the specifics: for him, it is enough to imagine a violent fantasy that would allow him to escape from the noise and selfishness that he believes characterizes the other Bundrens.

12. Darl Quotes

“Jewel’s hat droops limp about his neck…Jewel, I say, she is dead, Jewel. Addie Bundren is dead.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Addie Bundren
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl's thoughts are shifting forwards and backwards between past and present scenes, between memories and the realities of the present moment, as Addie has just died. One of Darl's tasks is to tell his brother Jewel that their mother has died. This task is significant in part because of just how negligent Anse has been: while his children grapple with the fact of their mother's death, they must simultaneously figure out how to manage things and direct what needs to be done. 

At the same time, Darl's repetitive language to Jewel is a somber reminder of how even for someone as eloquent as Darl, certain events (like death) can sometimes exceed language, which can prove ultimately insufficient in encapsulating what has taken place.

17. Darl Quotes

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you….I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or am not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl contrasts his own experience preparing for sleep "in a strange room" with the experience that he assumes Jewel and those like him have - an experience that, for Darl, is simpler and more straightforward than his own. Here, Darl reveals his openness to the great questions of mortality and existence - questions that can often recur as one prepares to sleep. At that border between wakefulness and sleeping (a border that in some ways seems a good deal like the border between life and death) identity and meaning become unclear. At least, they become a source of anxiety for Darl, who not only does not know who he is, but also begins to wonder whether he "is" or "is not" - and what it means to "be" at all (probably an allusion to Hamlet's famous "to be or not to be" soliloquy).

While Darl is able to make use of a more nuanced and complex (albeit confusing) language than Vardaman, he, like his brother, is preoccupied with such monumental questions. In some ways, Darl seems to envy Jewel, who (to Darl at least) seems not even to concern himself with such questions. This, too, is a way that Darl's character shares so little with Jewel's, in that Jewel prefers to act out his meaning rather than parse out what his life means from afar.

21. Darl Quotes

“It’s not your horse that’s dead, Jewel…Jewel’s mother is a horse.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Addie Bundren
Related Symbols: Jewel's Horse
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Darl continues his rivalry with Jewel, contrasting his way of understanding the world to his brother’s, even as they both attempt to grapple with Addie’s death in different ways. Darl views Jewel’s attachment to his horse critically, both because Jewel’s attachment to it sets him off from the rest of the family, and because Jewel’s focus on the horse embodies such a different, more visceral way of grappling with Addie’s death than Darl’s language-based, symbolically complex attitude.

Here, Darl connects Jewel’s love for Addie to his love for horses, and, using the same transitive property as Vardaman did earlier, links Addie to a horse ("my mother is a fish" becomes "Jewel's mother is a horse"). This potentially pejorative statement has more to do, however, with Darl’s own frustrations in trying to assign meaning to his mother’s life and death within the context of a family that is so internally different and inconsistent.

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.

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.

50. Darl Quotes

“Then it topples forward, gaining momentum, revealing Jewel and the sparks raining on him too in engendering gusts, so that he appears to be closed in a thin nimbus of fire.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel
Related Symbols: The Coffin
Page Number: 222
Explanation and Analysis:

In a show of attempted heroism and faithfulness to Addie, Jewel is emerging from the fire with her coffin, firmly positioning himself as Addie's most beloved son once again. Darl, of course, has put this entire series of events into action. And yet even he cannot help but admire Jewel's actions, describing them in his typically lush and powerfully descriptive language. Darl describes Jewel as a kind of Christ figure, sacrificing himself for the good of another - even though his own carefully reasoned judgment has made him conclude that the best thing for everyone would be for the fire to consume everything, and for the coffin to be swallowed up as well. Even while remaining in opposition to his brother, then, Darl is drawn to him, fascinated by the strange familial connections that keep them together despite their differences.

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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Jewel Character Timeline in As I Lay Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Jewel appears in As I Lay Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
1. Darl
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Darl and Jewel walk single-file on a large field, heading toward their home. On the way, they encounter... (full context)
3. Darl
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...on the Bundrens' back porch as Darl makes his return home. Anse asks Darl where Jewel is; before answering his father, Darl takes a drink and then thinks about the pleasure... (full context)
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Darl tells Anse that Jewel is down in the barn, where he is attempting to mount his horse, which is... (full context)
4. Jewel
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Jewel angrily dwells on the question of why Cash feels the need to hammer and saw... (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... (full context)
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Tull comforts Jewel and Darl by pointing out that Addie has seemed more like herself recently, though Jewel... (full context)
6. Cora
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...sweet disposition as she watches say goodbye to Addie. In particular, Cora contrasts Darl to Jewel, who she recalls was Addie's most "coddled" child. Yet Cora finds Jewel coldhearted, comparing him... (full context)
7. Dewey Dell
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...from Dewey Dell's perspective. Darl replies that Addie is going to die before he and Jewel return from their errand. (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. Anse repeats that the family... (full context)
10. Darl
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On their errand, Darl provokes Jewel by telling him that Addie is going to die. Jewel does not answer, and Darl... (full context)
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...Darl then notices the sun begin to set "like a bloody egg," and aggressively taunts Jewel again, repeating the fact that Addie is going to die. (full context)
12. Darl
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Although Jewel and Darl are still on their errand for Tull, Darl is somehow able to describe... (full context)
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Darl's thoughts then return to him and Jewel, still on their journey. Darl calls out to Jewel two times but is ignored by... (full context)
17. Darl
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...Tull and Peabody immediately bring the coffin inside. Darl shifts his focus to his and Jewel's present situation and ponders the need to "empty yourself for sleep." He believes "when you... (full context)
21. Darl
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Darl points out the thick cloud of buzzards flying overheard him and Jewel, as they make an unexpectedly delayed return home. He sarcastically reminds Jewel that it is... (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... (full context)
24. Vardaman
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...behind the glass in the Jefferson 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... (full context)
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Vardaman states once again that his mother is a fish, though Darl claims that Jewel's mother is a horse. Vardaman confusedly reasons that if Jewel is his brother, and Jewel's... (full context)
25. Darl
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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 is not... (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 shows disrespect for Addie. Anse... (full context)
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...mother in her coffin laying at his feet. The wagon passes Tull's lane just as Jewel and his horse catch up with the family's wagon. Darl continues to laugh. (full context)
27. Darl
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Darl watches Jewel catch up with the family in his wagon, and notices Tull wave at the Bundrens... (full context)
31. Tull
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...Cash's meticulous look, as though Tull were the coffin Cash was trying to build carefully. Jewel does not move and looks with apparent anger at Tull, eventually berating him for following... (full context)
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...them know that he will not allow his mule in the water to help them. Jewel curses the mule and Darl taunts Tull for his decision. Regardless, Tull repeats his statement... (full context)
32. Darl
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Darl focuses his gaze on Jewel, who is glaring with hostility at Tull. The scene sets Darl off into a memory... (full context)
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One night, Darl hears Jewel get up and climb out of his window, only to be followed by Cash. The... (full context)
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Addie is devastated that Jewel has kept this part of his life a secret, but Cash attempts to comfort her.... (full context)
34. Darl
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...Dewey Dell and Vardaman crossed, Darl and Cash proceed with the wagon to the ford. Jewel remains on his horse, following Darl and Cash at the wagon's rear wheel. The brothers... (full context)
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When Jewel, Cash and Darl attempt to execute their plan, a large log rushes toward them with... (full context)
36. Tull
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...into the water. Tull blames Anse for the misfortune of the situation, and explains how Jewel tightly gripped the rope keeping the coffin and the wagon within reach. Cash, however, was... (full context)
37. Darl
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...rope to a nearby to hold as he looks for missing things in the water. Jewel dives right into the current to look for Cash's tools in particular. The family and... (full context)
39. Cora
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...Addie Bundren was about notions of judgment and sin. Cora believes Addie's sin was loving Jewel more than Darl, and since Jewel didn't love her, Addie received due punishment for her... (full context)
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One day when Cora told Addie that Jewel is her sin, Addie begins to answer affirmatively, but cuts herself off. Instead, Addie merely... (full context)
40. Addie
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...faith in religious principles in general. As a result of the affair, Addie has another child—Jewel—her only non-Bundren child. To make up for her sinful behavior, Addie (and Anse) have two... (full context)
42. Darl
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...repeatedly says that all of Armstid's favors are "for her [Addie's] sake." Darl notices that Jewel remains separate from the family while they eat in Armstid's home, and describes Jewel's rituals... (full context)
43. Armstid
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Meanwhile, Jewel returns to Armstid's house with a horse-physician to help Cash with his injured leg. The... (full context)
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Anse leaves Armstid's house the next morning with Jewel's horse, riding off to inquire Snopes about opportunities for buying a team of mules nearby.... (full context)
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...of the fact that he got the family a new team of mules. He calls Jewel over, but Darl intervenes and asks Anse what he gave Snopes to get the mules.... (full context)
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Jewel appears more dumbfounded then infuriated at this news, and decides to ride away on his... (full context)
46. Darl
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...the cement into his splints anyway. Cash responds by saying that the cement feels fine. Jewel, who still had been missing, returns to the family silently. No longer with a horse,... (full context)
47. Vardaman
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Vardaman, Darl, Jewel and Dewey Dell walk up the hill. Vardaman mentally narrates the situation in simple, declarative... (full context)
48. Darl
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...way to Jefferson, a farm owned by a man called Gillepsie. Upon arrival, Darl asks Jewel "Whose son are you? Your mother was a horse, but who was your father Jewel?"... (full context)
49. Vardaman
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...outside on the 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... (full context)
50. Darl
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Darl and Jewel sprint toward the barn. Darl describes the burning barn and notices the sense of urgency... (full context)
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Jewel, appearing furious and with "muscles ridged through his garment," enters the barn to save Gillepsie's... (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 his back hurts. At some point, Darl leaves and the family asks where he... (full context)
52. Darl
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...make their way into town, a bystander complains about the stench coming from their wagon. Jewel curses at the man, who then flashes a knife. Darl apologizes on his brother's behalf... (full context)
53. Cash
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...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... (full context)
59. Cash
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The Bundrens—minus Darl —return to the house from which they borrowed the spades. Jewel suggests that Vardaman go return them, but Anse insists that he do it, and ends... (full context)