As I Lay Dying

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Whitfield Character Analysis

Whitfield is the local minister with whom Addie has an affair, and is the father of Jewel. He plans to confess to Anse about the affair before Addie’s death, but upon finding out that she has already died without telling anyone, he decides not to, perceiving her death as a gift from God.

Whitfield Quotes in As I Lay Dying

The As I Lay Dying quotes below are all either spoken by Whitfield or refer to Whitfield. 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.
41. Whitfield Quotes

“It was already as though it were done. My soul felt freer, quieter than it had in years….To either side I saw His hand; in my heart I could hear His voice:

‘Courage. I am with thee.’”

Related Characters: Whitfield (speaker)
Page Number: 178
Explanation and Analysis:

Before Addie's death, Whitfield was going to go to the Bundrens' home and confess that he had had an affair with her, hoping that by doing so he would be absolved for his sins before she died. Nonetheless, once Addie dies Whitfield decides that, since no one knew about the affair, there was no need to confess. Here, the book implicitly stresses Whitfield's incredible hypocrisy in assuming that he is absolved anyway, since it's "as though" he had confessed.  

Although Whitfield had claimed to want to confess, even if he had he clearly feels no genuine sorrow or shame for his actions - he thinks of sin as something that can be done away with without any struggle or real change of heart. Whitfield seems to think that he is chosen by God, enjoying a privileged relationship to him despite his morally dubious choices. The book thus shows a potential emptiness at the heart of religious faith in the way that a number of its characters practice religion - viewing it as a set of codes that are no more than ritual and social masquerade rather than really engaging with ethical questions.

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Whitfield Character Timeline in As I Lay Dying

The timeline below shows where the character Whitfield appears in As I Lay Dying. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
20. Tull
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
The local minister named Whitfield comes to the house to lead Addie's funeral, but first tells the Bundrens that the... (full context)
40. Addie
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Addie then begins an affair with Whitfield, the local minister. While she finds escape in the passion of the affair, she does... (full context)
41. Whitfield
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
When Whitfield hears Addie is dying, he "wrestled with Satan" and decides to go to the Bundrens'... (full context)
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
However, when 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... (full context)