In Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, what causes Darl to go insane? Is he insane at the beginning, or does he become increasingly insane?

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One could argue that Darl is not insane but is labeled insane since his actions contrast with his family. Early in the novel, Cora says Darl is “different from those others.” Darl stands apart from his family in multiple ways. He appears much more reflective and perceptive than the other Bundrens. He senses Dewey’s pregnancy and that the quest to bury Addie in Jefferson is futile.

When Darl burns down the barn, one could contend that he’s acting rationally. He deliberately wants to extinguish Addie’s corpse so that his family’s misadventures will end. It’s possible to claim that Darl is sent to the mental hospital not because he’s legitimately insane but because he doesn’t fit in with his family, whose members aren’t exactly paragons of well-reasoned behavior.

Conversely, it’s feasible to say that Darl does grow increasingly insane. What starts as a kind of precocious otherness develops into genuine insanity. As Darl is taken to the asylum in Jackson, his uncanny laughter and repetition of the word yes don’t paint a very sane picture.

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