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...
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.