As I Lay Dying


William Faulkner

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As I Lay Dying: 41. Whitfield Summary & Analysis

When Whitfield hears Addie is dying, he "wrestled with Satan" and decides to go to the Bundrens' home, so that he can absolve himself of sin through confession, hoping that he can confess before Addie does so. After his decision is made, Whitfield claims to feel freer and to have a quieter soul.
In contrast to Addie, Whitfield uncritically accepts religion as a moral code, in spite of sinning. He resolves that verbally acknowledging his affair with Addie to Anse will absolve him of God's punishment for his sinful actions .
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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 Bundren family or outside of it seems to suggest knowledge of the affair. Whitfield delivers a complex series of thoughts about God's mercy, and how God permitting Addie to die prior to Whitfield's actual confession was an act of "bounteous and omnipotent love."
Faulkner implicitly critiques religion in this chapter. Whitfield's lazy belief that God will forgive him for his intention to confess his sin to Anse is fraught with hypocrisy. Yet Whitfield remains respected, indicating a further critique of religion. While the innocent Cash appears to be punished, perhaps by divine forces, Whitfield is viewed as wholly innocent by those around him.
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