As I Lay Dying


William Faulkner

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As I Lay Dying: 16. Tull Summary & Analysis

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 of horses and reasons that Addie Bundren is "gone at last." Eventually, later that night, Tull and Cora get to bed but are woken up in the night by Vardaman knocking on their door. Vardaman comes into the house wet and covered in mud, and continues to talk about the fish he caught and chopped up for dinner. Tull reasons that Vardaman's nonsensical words and strange behavior are signs of God's judgment upon Anse for being a negligent father.
Despite Tull's readiness to help the Bundrens in times of need, he internally expresses criticism for the family's strange way of existing in the world. Here, Tull dismisses Vardaman's exploration of existence (comparing Addie to the fish) as nonsense. Tull and Cora use religion as an accessible framework to pass judgments on the Bundrens: in this case, Tull ungenerously sees Vardaman's strange behavior not as a sign of grief, but as a sign of God punishing Anse for his failed parenting.
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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 finishing touches. The men finish the coffin before dawn and nail Addie into it. The next morning, the family and Tull find Vardaman asleep next to the coffin, which has holes drilled into it. In the act of drilling these holes, Vardaman also bore two holes in his mother's face. Cora and Tull finally return home.
Tull's decision to help Cash here is unexpected, given his judgment of the Bundrens previously in the section. Yet it shows an instance of a character's actions providing a contrast with that character's mode of using language, a central interest of Faulkner's throughout the novel.
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