As I Lay Dying


William Faulkner

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Themes and Colors
Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty Theme Icon
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon
Family, Birth, and Death Theme Icon
Religion and Faith Theme Icon
Language versus Action Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in As I Lay Dying, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Self-Interest Versus Heroic Duty

At the most basic level, As I Lay Dying is a novel about the Bundrens and their family quest to fulfill the wish of their deceased wife and mother Addie Bundren to be buried beside her family members in Jefferson, Mississippi. The Bundrens successfully lug Addie’s foul-smelling corpse countless miles in the Mississippi heat, and even battle flood and fire along the way. Seen in this way, their journey appears heroic, recalling motifs of traditional…

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Mortality and the Nature of Existence

As I Lay Dying is not only about mortality insofar as it concerns Addie Bundren’s death. More deeply, the novel explores the theme of mortality by showing each of Addie’s family members, loved ones, and other acquaintances offer unique responses to her death, attempting to make sense of the nature of existence. In doing so, these characters realize deeper and more universal things about existence and the transience of human experience. Reflecting on his…

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Family, Birth, and Death

Just as As I Lay Dying calls into question traditional ideas about the meaning of heroism, the novel also complicates the idea of family. In the beginning of the novel, it appears perhaps that the Bundren famly is a united front, together facing the tragic death of their beloved wife and mother. However, as the novel progresses, it becomes increasingly clear that what is driving the Bundren journey to deliver Addie to Jefferson is not

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Religion and Faith

The theme of religion and faith appears in As I Lay Dying in various contexts – from plot points and the thing characters do and say, to the way Biblical imagery and motifs are invoked in order to compare events in the novel to religious events. Given that the novel calls into question the traditional ideals of heroism and familial duty, these comparisons often make ironic the religious theme in question. For instance, Darl defends…

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Language versus Action

Faulkner’s interest in the disconnect between language and action is clear from the way the novel is told in and of itself: there is a disconnect between the action of the novel – the Bundren’s journey to Jefferson – and the way such action unfolds – through individual narrations of the characters involved in and around the journey. As I Lay Dying does not tell an objective tale, but is a series of subjective experiences…

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