What's a good thesis statement for "As I Lay Dying"?

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To write a thesis statement about existentialism in As I Lay Dying, consider that the novel explores existential themes of being and belonging as the characters struggle in their way to finding meaning and wholeness through their various perspectives on the events. The task of making sense of their reality, though, is challenged by the characters’ moral flaws, selfish preoccupations, and mental idiosyncrasies.

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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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What would be a good thesis statement for a research paper with the topic: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner?

Typically, when writing an essay on a novel, it is best to focus on one major theme (or two very similar themes) analyzed through the use of three different literary elements.  This will give you the basic five paragraph essay that is typically required in high school essays.  If your teacher has given you a minimum length and five paragraphs is not enough, this focus is also easily adapted and made longer by analyzing the theme through more than three literary elements.

Before writing a thesis statement, you will have to do some serious preliminary brainstorming first.  I encourage you to answer the following questions (using notes, lists, and short hand if you want):

  1. What are some major themes (subject) presented in the novel?
  2. What is the author's point concerning these themes?  What message does Faulkner wish to get across?
  3. What literary elements does Faulkner use to get this point (from #2) across?  (Examples in fiction are things like: characterization, symbolism, point-of-view, irony, figures of speech, etc.)

Once you've given some basic answers to the above questions, narrow your topic by focusing on one major theme and the three strongest or easiest literary elements.  Continue brainstorming ideas by going back to the text and gathering evidence in the form of quotes.  The two things you are looking for here are:

  1. Quotes that display one of the three chosen literary elements AND
  2. simultaneously help support/prove the theme.

You can organize your paper as you gather evidence by listing quotes under the appropriate literary element heading (which would also become your three topic sentences).  After you've organized all your ideas, you can easily write a two-part thesis statement by filling in the blanks:

In As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, the author uses literary elements to show [theme and purpose of theme].  This theme is made most evident through [element 1], [element 2], and [element 3].

The links below are also great resources to review before you get started.

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How can I write a thesis statement about existentialism in As I Lay Dying?

A thesis statement needs to introduce your main idea and a "controlling" idea to give body and contrast to your essay. Your topic appears to be to find and explain examples of existential themes in As I Lay Dying, and there are lots of them.

A great way to introduce your main thesis would be to first define the term existentialism to make it clear that you understand the task. Then, your main idea could be something about how Faulkner explores these complex questions of being and not being through varying perspectives of one uneducated rural family. Or, you could put the focus more on the characters and write about how their varying perspectives and personalities portray different interpretations of reality and its value and significance.

Your thesis is going to combine this idea about multiple narrative perspectives depicting the characters' active inner lives and take on the events with a more specific related idea to illustrate and support. You could compare and contrast different perspectives or approach the idea from the question of narrative reliability. Here are some existentialist themes related to two of the characters to guide your thinking.

Darl is one who has a particularly reflective inner life and is given to internal monologues, like when he says, "I don't know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not." Here, he is reasoning out a kind of equation for his own existence, connecting his own being in the world to his brother, his brother’s beloved horse, their soon-to-be-dead mother, and the mule wagon that will carry her body home to rest.

Addie is also given a voice to speak with authority about the nature of living and dying, clarifying her understanding of her life's tragic purpose and revealing herself to be the book's most sympathetic and credible narrator. When Addie, the "I" in the title, speaks to demystify through her own experience the existential crises besetting the family and its members, the reader must pay attention. Addie says, "My father said that the reason for living is getting ready to stay dead. I knew at last what he meant." Here, she is suggesting an end-of-life epiphany allowing her to "clean house" and find peace of mind enough to let go without regret. Although the other family members survive to continued existence, they do not find the resolution and integrity that Addie represents in her passing.

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I'm writing a research paper on "As I Lay Dying".  My topic is "Love".  What would be a good thesis statement for this paper?

This topic is actually a quite rich one in relation to As I Lay Dying.

One way to read this novel is to see it as an exploration of several types of love or modes of the expression of love. Love can be seen as service and sacrifice (Cash), affection and attachment (Darl), redemption/self-effacement (Jewel), and loyalty (Anse).

A thesis statement focusing on the varying modes of love explored in the novel could look like this:

  • Love is a term with many definitions. In William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, several of these definitions are explored in ways both practical and psychological.



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What would be a good essay topic for the novel As I Lay Dying?


There are several detailed essay topics already available on e-notes: here are a few more -

1) Analyse the positive and negative effects of using multiple narrators to tell the story.

2) What does each character gain from the journey to lay Addie to rest? Which character gains the most?

3) How would key events in the novel differ if told from one perspective? Review a chosen section and re-tell in the third person. Present a commentary on your writing, highlighting the effects of objectivity and subjectivity on the events selected.

4) How would Cash choose to represent the final events of the novel?

5) Do you consider Darl to be sane or insane? Chart his emotional development/demise through the novel and reflect on his own viewpoint as well as that of other characters.

6) Write a continuance of the novel showing the reaction of one of the children to the 'new' Mrs Bundren. Try to emulate Faulkner's style as well as keeping the content plausible.




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What would be a good essay topic for the novel As I Lay Dying?

Here are a few possibilities:

1) Compare each of the sibling's orientation to their mother's illness and eventual death. Tell in what ways their reactions are the same. In what ways are they different? Who is most dedicated to the mother? The least?

2) Some parts of the narrative are imagined. What character or characters were not present for certain events but spoke about them anyway? Why did the author add these visions? What purpose could they serve in the novel?How do they help us understand a particular character?

3) Some critics suggest that As I Lay Dying is a dark comedy. Indeed, there are numerous elements of humor in the book. Talk about the funny parts of this novel of life and death. In addition: one can almost look upon the whole work as one, long shaggy-dog story that ends with a joke.

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