How does this work explore free will and victimization?

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The Bundren family's story in As I Lay Dying raises questions about fate and free will. More specifically, upon observing all of the tragedies and mishaps that befall the family, we have to wonder whether they are victims of their circumstances. How much control do these characters have over their own lives?

Addie, the mother who dies early in the novel, reveals that she feels like a victim of circumstances. She feels tricked into marriage and even into some of her pregnancies by Anse, her husband. This is one reason why she has an affair that produces Jewel: she is in control of her own desires, for once. Addie expresses that language does not really get at emotions or thoughts, making communication seem hopeless. If a character holds this worldview, it's easy to see how the character would feel powerless and victimized.

It's important to note that the female characters of the Bundren family take on additional burdens and thus are victims of gender expectations and exploitation. Dewey Dell is expected to cook and care for the family immediately after her mother's death. She is also apparently sexually victimized by Lafe, as she depicts their encounter as out of her control, as though there was nothing to do to stop it.

In other scenes, the family as a whole seems to be the victim of fate or bad luck. For example, in the scene where they try to cross the river with the wagon, the family loses their animals, almost loses Addie's coffin, and suffers a serious injury to the oldest brother, Cash. On the other hand, we could say it is Anse's poor judgment that leads to these tragedies. His stubborn insistence on getting to town, despite the inconvenience to the entire family and to those who have to help them along the way, is probably more to blame than his bad luck. However, Faulkner's characters tend to portray themselves as victims.

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Free will and choice versus victimization and the lack of choice is another theme. The most salient example of this is Dewey Dell, who “couldn’t help” but have sex with the farm worker Lafe. She speaks of the incident like she had no choice in the matter. The druggist who tricks her at the end also takes advantage of her. Other examples of this theme's manifestation are Darl being taken away to the asylum, the cement cast on Cash's leg, and the attempted religious comforts of Cora Tull.

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