Alienation and Loneliness
Faulkner's use of multiple narrators underscores one of his primary themes: every character is essentially isolated from the others. Moreover, the characters in the novel do not communicate effectively with one another. Although the reader is privy to the characters' thoughts and emotional responses, none of the characters adequately express their dilemmas or desires to others. Outside of Darl, who knows Addie's and Dewey Dell's secrets through intuition, the characters can only guess at the motivations, beliefs, and feelings of others. When these guesses turn out to be wrong, misunderstandings ensue.
As a result of their communication problems, members of the Bundren family live alienated from each other—whether willfully (like Addie or Jewel), unknowingly (like Anse, Cash, Dewey Dell, or Vardaman), or painfully (like Darl). This alienation extends to neighbors, who misinterpret or simply cannot fathom the family's actions.
The more sensitive characters, especially Addie and Darl, recognize their alienation from others. In particular, Addie is a striking example of someone who both longs to transcend this isolation and stubbornly works to maintain an impenetrable individuality. As a schoolteacher, she would whip her students in order to overcome the barriers between her and others: "I would think with each blow of the switch: Now you are aware of me! Now I am something in your secret and...
(The entire section is 1127 words.)
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In an early monologue, Cora Tull asks her husband, Vernon, a question: If Addie's lying with relatives after death is so important to her, "Then why didn't she go alive?" Her question is an early statement of one of the major themes in the novel: what constitutes life and death? Addie's monologue, which answers Cora's question, occurs not only long after Addie's death but after the dangerous river crossing, which drowns two mules, nearly drowns her sons, Darl and Cash, and causes a bad break to Cash's previously broken leg. In short, it occurs after her family has already spent a great deal of energy fulfilling her supposedly sacred desire, to be buried with her relatives nearly 40 miles away rather than with Anse's Bundren relatives at New Hope cemetery less than three miles away. Unknown to Anse, Addie's burial plans are the revenge she takes on Anse for her pregnancy with Darl more than twenty years earlier. She is angry at being "tricked" into the pregnancy by Anse, by her unsatisfying life with Anse, by Anse's use of the word love, and by words in general. She sees "words" going "up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth." Out of Addie's revenge comes not only the action of the novel but all its themes as well.
In seeking to get married, Addie looked for someone to violate her sense of being alone, and though her son Cash invades her isolation, as has Anse himself earlier, after Addie's second pregnancy and the birth...
(The entire section is 1081 words.)