As I Lay Dying


William Faulkner

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As I Lay Dying: 39. Cora Summary & Analysis

Cora remembers a tense conversation with Addie about faith and religion. Specifically, Cora recalls scorning Addie for her assumption that humans such as herself can judge what is and is not a sin, thus neglecting to honor God for his judgment. Addie mysteriously replied, "I know my own sin. I know that I deserve my punishment."
Cora believes herself to be an ideal Christian and takes it upon herself to be a source of authority. This scene is ironic, as Cora spends the novel fiercely judging Addie and the rest of the Bundrens for their apparent sins, despite pontificating that only God can be a source of judgment.
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Cora preoccupies herself with remembering how presumptuous 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 sin.
Cora is quick to judge all things in the world around her as reflections of God's opinions on individuals and their actions, which contradicts her belief that only God can judge the actions of others.
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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 explains, "He [Jewel] is my cross and he will be my salvation. He will save me from the water and from the fire."
Addie's enigmatic response to Cora affirms the existence of something concrete that explains the dysfunction of the Bundrens. Addie invokes the image of a "cross" and the idea of "salvation" to express the magnitude of love she feels for Jewel.
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