As I Lay Dying


William Faulkner

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As I Lay Dying: 24. Vardaman Summary & Analysis

Vardaman expresses excitement about going to town, and makes another reference to the bright red train set 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 to leave his prized horse at home, so that they can ride in the wagon as a family.
Despite his interest in questions of existence, Vardaman too expresses self-interest. Jewel's choice to ignore Anse complicates the idea that the Bundrens are united in a heroic effort to fulfill a promise to Addie, and instead points to the competing self-interests that characterize the family dynamic.
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
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 mother is a horse, then Vardaman's mother can't be a fish. Darl tells him not to worry, and tells Vardaman that he simply doesn't have a mother. The two brothers discuss the question of what it means to "be is."
As he continues to ponder existence, Vardaman finds himself caught up in the way language works. Vardaman does not understand how Jewel's mother can be a horse, if his own mother is a fish. This leads him to ask Darl about the nature of the verb "to be," revealing Vardaman and Darl's shared interest in both existence and language.
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
Cash approaches the wagon with his tools, so that he can stop and help Tull fix his roof on the way back from Jefferson. Anse tells Cash that his 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 sell them in Jefferson.
Cash's tools symbolize his attachment to trying to fix things in the world around him, rather than expressing vulnerability. Anse's negative interpretation of Cash's desire to bring his tools and Dewey Dell her package is hypocritical, as Anse is merely masking his own selfishness and disrespect by blaming it on his very own children.
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon