About Anse Bundren: On p.193, Armstid says, “Well, that’ll be the last they’ll ever see of now, sho enough. Come Christmas time they’ll maybe get a postal card from him in Texas, I reckon. And if it hadn’t a been Jewel, I reckon it’d a been me; I owe him that much, myself. I be durn if Anse don’t conjure a man, some way, I be durn if he ain’t a sight.” Anse Bundren is surely one of the most feckless characters in literature, yet he manages to command the obedience and cooperation of his children. How does he do it? Why are other people so generous with him? He gets his new teeth at the end of the novel and he also gets a new wife. What is the secret of Anse’s charm? How did he manage to make Addie marry him, when she is clearly more intelligent than he is? I need to gather as many ideas as possible. Cite examples from the novel to support your points.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In addition to what the other educators have shared, I'll argue that Anse's complete helplessness and uselessness as a person make him need other people—and for those people, such as his neighbor, Tull, to feel needed by someone is an extremely powerful emotion.

Let's clarify Anse's neediness by finding some...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

In addition to what the other educators have shared, I'll argue that Anse's complete helplessness and uselessness as a person make him need other people—and for those people, such as his neighbor, Tull, to feel needed by someone is an extremely powerful emotion.

Let's clarify Anse's neediness by finding some examples of him being completely helpless on his own.

First, here he is, finding it a great annoyance that he has to put on his own shoes:

He puts his shoes on, stomping into them, like he does everything, like he is hoping all the time he really cant do it and can quit trying to.

And here he is, looking like he can't dress himself properly:

Anse's wrists dangle out of his sleeves: I never see him with a shirt on that looked like it was his in all my life. They all looked like Jewel might have give him his old ones.

Next, here's Anse being completely oblivious to his own helplessness, repeating his mantra as he claims, again, that he doesn't want to owe anyone for their help, even though he's constantly accepting it:

I wouldn't be beholden, God knows.

And what do others make of Anse's total helplessness, his complete dependence on others? Sure, they're annoyed, but at the same time, they can't resist it. They have to help. They're drawn to his neediness.

Here's Armstid, commenting on the ineffable quality of Anse's that inspires others to help him, even when they don't want to, even when they know they'll regret it:

Because be durn if there aint something about a durn fellow like Anse that seems to make a man have to help him, even when he knows hell be wanting to kick himself next minute.

I'd argue that what Armstid is touching on here is, again, Anse's neediness.

When others need us, we feel valued, important, empowered, and deeply connected to the person in need. According to the 2007 study cited below, feeling needed by and useful to others is not just a powerful and positive emotion for us but may also be associated with living longer lives.

In other words, feeling needed is essential to our humanity and to our existence.

I suggest that this feeling is what inevitably draws characters like Tull and Armstid toward helpless people like Anse.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think it is not Anse per se that the children show respect to, but the institution of family. Although Anse is lazy and dishonest, he does intend to keep his family together, even to the point of bringing in a 'new' wife at the end. We may not approve of his logic and methods, and we may see his replacement of Addie as cruel and insensitive, but he keeps the family united as they have always been - even through his wife's infidelity. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Stubbornness and an apparent unflappability combine in Anse. He is seemingly helpless against his own laziness or finds a way to communicate a sense of helplessness anyway. 

To say that Anse is charming seems a bit odd, but it's hard to deny that he must have some kind of charm to find a fiance in the end. Rather than charm, I'd say Anse possesses an allure which stems from his complex passivity. He insinuates himself into other people's sense of duty. He has a talent for burdening his community. 

Due to the fact that so much of Anse's behavior is essentially passive, finding passages in the text which demonstrate his power over others is more difficult than, say, finding passages that identify Jewel's internal conflicts or Darl's compassion. 

However, if we posit our analysis in a certain way and say that this is a book about love... As a novel about different types of love, Anse demonstrates a self-love and a narcissim which might be cited in the passages commenting on his refusal to break a sweat and in the passage on his new teeth. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team