What would be a good thesis statement for a "As I Lay Dying"?

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Considering how Faulkner’s use of language makes each of his words feel seeped with meaning, there are multiple arguments to consider when formulating a thesis on As I Lay Dying. When crafting your essay, I suggest focusing on how Faulkner employs literary devices—such as symbolism and imagery —to...

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Considering how Faulkner’s use of language makes each of his words feel seeped with meaning, there are multiple arguments to consider when formulating a thesis on As I Lay Dying. When crafting your essay, I suggest focusing on how Faulkner employs literary devices—such as symbolism and imagery—to convey the most significant themes of the novel.

Exploring and analyzing the relationships between the Bundren family members in As I Lay Dying produces many ripe ideas for creating your central argument. Significantly, Faulkner illustrates how disconnected the members of the family are from one another by choosing to have each chapter narrated from a different perspective. An interesting example comes from a posthumous chapter of Addie’s, in which she describes the relationship between her and Anse as empty and loveless:

He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn't need a word for that any more than for pride or fear.

Addie’s description provides context into how her and Anse’s strained marriage sets a precedent for an emotionally dissonant familial environment and the significant ways that each character experiences feelings of isolation and despondency.

Similarly, throughout the novel’s nine-day journey, there is a focus on how Addie’s body progressively decomposes, followed by a growing number of buzzards. This decomposition is an effective symbolic device; Faulkner conspicuously uses Addie’s decaying body to emphasize the insufficient sources of emotional nourishment that each character suffers from and how these neglected feelings result in repressed desires for love and connection within the family members.

Another argument to consider is how Faulkner’s stream-of-consciousness writing style and vivid use of imagery distinguishes As I Lay Dying’s innovative legacy in twentieth-century literature. With recurring images of water, Faulkner illustrates how thoughts flow together like a stream. The image of Addie’s casket overturned in the river is especially powerful in conveying this message. One of the most memorable chapters of the novel—told from Vardaman’s point of view—features only one sentence:

My mother is a fish.

When Faulkner takes on the perspective of a child navigating his mother’s death with this metaphor, he demonstrates the power of his stream-of-consciousness style with profound brevity.

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A good thesis statement for this novel (or any novel) is going to be a statement that makes an argument that you can prove with evidence from the text. A thesis statement is not a statement of fact, because there isn't anything to be argued for or against. Thesis statements come in a couple of formats too. You can use the statement and reason(s) format. In this format you could have a thesis like the following:

"The book presents readers with a warped view of family through the narrations of each character."

An alternative thesis format is a point and counterpoint thesis format. This is actually the thesis format that I recommend using because it admits to your readers that there is an alternative argument to yours. The main goal is then for you to not only prove your argument, but to also disprove the other argument. This thesis format typically begins with the word "although" because the word forces a dependent clause.

"Although readers are presented with facts from each narrative point of view, readers can never be sure exactly what is the truth throughout this entire story."

Either of the thesis formats are solid thesis formats, but it is important to pick something that is defensible. For that reason, I recommend a thesis statement that focuses on particular themes in the novel or particular characters. Often those two things are going to overlap because one is used as evidence for the other. Thematically, you could choose to analyze the book's versions of reality or focus on the themes of suffering, family, or duty.

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As a thesis statement, you should be addressing Faulkner\'s main point for this novel. Faulkner is saying there may be no more creative moment for humans than when we rationalize our thoughts, words and actions.

Every character except for Jewel is consumed in a deep, developed personal lie. They are all appearing to heroically fulfill the dying wish of the family matriarch. They are all using this moment of grief as a means to a personal and selfish end. Darl is mentally torturing Jewel. Dewey Dell is desperate to get to town for an abortion. Anse needs to replace his dead wife. Cash is trying to win his dead mother\'s approval by building a coffin she will enjoy. Even Vardaman is conned into seeing toys in a store front that he will never own.

The horrible beauty of this dark novel is that only after the characters are fully fleshed out, there is no way to convince them that they are wrong. The scene of Dewey Dell fanning her dying mother appears to be like a caring daughter keeping a sweet vigil. She is fanning her so hard she is making it hard for Addie to breathe and she will konw first when Addie expires. It is grotesque, creative and hypnotic.

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There are many themes touched upon in this novel.  Alienation, loneliness, death, insanity and sanity, identity, the importance of language, love and passion are just a few.  You could focus on any one of these themes to come up with a great thesis statement.  For example, you could use this one:  Faulkner uses language and a character's use of language to help the audience identify with each of the characters in As I Lay Dying.  Your thesis should be a statement which you can prove with reasons/points from the novel.  For the language one, you can use Addie's distrust of language, and Jewel's inclination to action rather than language.  Darl, Vardeman, and Dewey Dell also have various language issues.

Good Luck!

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