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What are the most prominent social issues in As I Lay Dying?

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xzyoe | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 6, 2010 at 1:34 AM via web

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What are the most prominent social issues in As I Lay Dying?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 6, 2010 at 5:59 AM (Answer #1)

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Faulkner's As I Lay Dying does not rank high on the social issues pecking order, but here are a few:

Lack of education: Sex education is non-existent; Dewey Dell doesn't know how she got pregnant.  Anse puts Cash's leg in a cement cast.  Addie beats her students.  Peabody is an obese doctor who has to be pulled up the hill.  The family carts around a decaying body for eight days.  Needless to say, the Deep South needs education reform.

Mental illness: Vardaman does not understand death and thinks his mother is a fish.  Darl is committed to a mental hospital mainly because of his actions (barn burning), not based on a thorough psychiatric exam.  So, no one knows who's crazy or sane.  It's all based on social expectation, which--in an illegitimate society--is a recipe for disaster.  They're all probably nuts.  Or, in that society, they're all sane.  As Cash says:

Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.

Social Class: the Bundrens are dirt poor and lazy.  Even their backwoods neighbors thumb their noses at them.  The Bundrens' idea of high society is Jefferson, where they get false teeth, a train, and a back-alley abortion.  They make the Beverly Hillbillies look sophisticated.

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