Addie Bundren is bitter. She was bitter as a school teacher and she is bitter as a wife. Addie's one moment of joy and freedom came when she had an affair, cheating on Anse and becoming pregnant with Jewel.
The affair is the only time Addie is able to assert herself in the world.
Years into her marriage, she had a passionate affair with the Reverend Whitfield. During the affair, she became pregnant with Jewel, her favorite child.
For much of the rest of her life, she is bitterly passive, allowing things to happen to her. She is distant from her children and her husband yet continues having kids.
As a final act of self-assertion, Addie makes Anse promise to bury her with her family. In death, she breaks from her passivity and her bitter agreement to endure her place in the world.
Having lived a life of separation, emotionally distanced from her husband and family and yearning for something that she does not articulate, Addie experiences the poignant anguish of filling a role that has no meaning for her.
Addie is a striking example of someone who both longs to transcend this isolation and stubbornly works to maintain an impenetrable individuality.
Only on dying does she finally insist to be returned to a place where she might be satisfied.