In As I Lay Dying, what is Addie's secret?

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Cora and Addie are discussing the relative challenges of womanhood, and it is here that we think Cora realises that Addie has a secret she will not reveal. Cora grumbles about Addie that-

You’d think from the way she talked that she knew more about sin and salvation than the Lord God Himself

Cora believes that Addie’s only sin is –

Being partial to Jewel that never loved her

We begin to see that Addie’s relationship with Jewel is distinctly different from that with her other children. Cora tells Addie-

Jewel is your punishment

Addie could choose to confess that Jewel is not Anse’s child, but she retains this secret, condemning herself forever and rejecting eternal salvation. She knows that this confession would save her, but she chooses not to speak.

He is my cross and he will be my salvation.

Cora criticises Addie’s decision, saying Addie had

…closed her heart to God and set that selfish mortal boy in His place.


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