As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying

Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Analysis

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.
Mortality and the Nature of Existence Theme Icon

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 mother’s death, the cynical Darl remarks, “It takes two people to make you, one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.” The guilt-ridden Dewey Dell more sentimentally reflects on the fact that she was distracted by personal issues during the time in which her mother died: “I heard that my mother is dead. I wish I had time to let her die. I wish I had time to wish I had.” Vardaman’s initial reaction to his mother’s death is to drill holes in her coffin so she can breathe. As a six-year-old, not yet fully aware of what death means, Vardaman is initially in denial: he thinks that because Addie’s physical body still exists, she must still exist and therefore need air in order to keep existing.

These questions – relating to the meaning of life and death – appear most important to Darl and Vardaman. Both characters are less concerned with the pragmatic aspects of life and are focused more on these philosophical questions. This is the case for Vardaman because he is only six. By contrast, Darl is the novel’s most cerebral character—in some ways he is the most sane member of the family, seeing their quest for the idiotic and destructive undertaking that it is. At the same time, he seems unstable, and may or may not be insane.

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Mortality and the Nature of Existence Quotes in As I Lay Dying

Below you will find the important quotes in As I Lay Dying related to the theme of Mortality and the Nature of Existence.
10. Darl Quotes

“It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker)
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

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12. Darl Quotes

“Jewel’s hat droops limp about his neck…Jewel, I say, she is dead, Jewel. Addie Bundren is dead.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Addie Bundren
Page Number: 52
Explanation and Analysis:

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13. Vardaman Quotes

“I will be where the fish was, and it all cut up into not-fish now.”

Related Characters: Vardaman Bundren (speaker), Vardaman Bundren
Related Symbols: Fish
Page Number: 53
Explanation and Analysis:

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15. Vardaman Quotes

“It was not here. I was there, looking. I saw. I thought it was her, but it was not. It was not my mother….It was not here because it was laying right yonder in the dirt. And now it’s all chopped up. I chopped it up. It’s laying in the kitchen in the bleeding pan, waiting to be cooked and et.”

Related Characters: Vardaman Bundren (speaker), Addie Bundren
Related Symbols: Fish
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

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17. Darl Quotes

“In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you….I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or am not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

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19. Vardaman Quotes

“My mother is a fish.”

Related Characters: Vardaman Bundren (speaker), Vardaman Bundren
Related Symbols: Fish
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

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21. Darl Quotes

“It’s not your horse that’s dead, Jewel…Jewel’s mother is a horse.”

Related Characters: Darl Bundren (speaker), Jewel, Addie Bundren
Related Symbols: Jewel's Horse
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

30. Dewey Dell Quotes

“I heard that my mother is dead. I wish I had time to let her die. I wish I had time to wish I had.”

Related Characters: Dewey Dell Bundren (speaker), Addie Bundren
Page Number: 120
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

51. Vardaman Quotes

“The barn was still red, but it wasn’t a barn now.”

Related Characters: Vardaman Bundren (speaker)
Page Number: 223
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.