Student Question

Does each member of the Bundren family get what they deserve by the end of the novel?

Quick answer:

The children’s lives have been blighted by the family dysfunction and sense of entitlement. Each of them has suffered in different ways, with each suffering being more unjust than the last.

Expert Answers

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I would say that none of the Bundren’s get what they deserve. Selfish, lazy Anse has a new set of teeth and a new wife. It could be argued that this is in some way deserved as he has travelled so far to carry out Addie’s wishes, and he has tried his best to keep the family together.

 “It’s Cash and Jewel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell” pa says, kind of hangdog and proud too, with his teeth and all, even if he wouldn’t look at us. “Meet Mrs Bundren,” he says. P208

 However, his stealing of Dewey Dell’s money and the sale of Jewel’s horse mean he has taken more than he gives.

Dewey Dell sees that Addie was in pain before her death, and that her passing id therefore a release-

“She was old, and sick too. Suffering more than we knew. She couldn’t have got well. p43

However, even though she had been unfaithful to Anse and had Jewel, she did not deserve the indignities which her body suffered after death. Being upside down in the coffin, which was dropped in the water and having her face bored by an auger was unwarranted desecration.

Cash as the eldest child was practical and solid. He works on his mother’s coffin as she approaches death as his physical skill is how he communicates. His bullet point list in chapter 18 indicates how he thinks in stages-

 I made it on the bevel.

1. There is more surface for the nails to grip. P66

The breaking of his leg and the family foolishly setting it in concrete will leave him seriously incapacitated and will restrict him from the practical physical action which is his only real expression. This is not deserved at all.

Darl was the most compassionate son, and yet he is driven insane by the complexity of the family’s dysfunction. He has tormented Jewel, but the prospect of the lunatic asylum is a far from justified punishment-

 Darl is our brother, our brother Darl. Our brother Darl in a cage in Jackson p203

Jewel is Addie’s favourite, and suffers greatly at her death as she is the only other person he really identifies with. Jewel’s only other expression is through his horse, and when Anse has bargained it away, he has lost everything.

Dewey Dell is anxious of how to deal wither pregnancy, and has been unable to discuss it with her mother before she died. She is cruelly abused by MacGowan who sells her tablets filled with talcum and then abuses her-

 ‘Are you sure it’ll work?’ she says

‘Sure,’ I says. ‘When you take it with the rest of the treatment,’

‘Where do I take it?’ she says.

‘Down in the cellar,’ I says. P198.

Vardaman is the youngest, and struggles with working out the complexities of the relationships within his family. His statement on page 66-

 My mother is a fish.

Exemplifies the confusion in the young boy. His questions and queries are dismissed by his siblings, and he is dangerously close to following in Darl’s footsteps-

I have not been on the train, but Darl has been on the train. Darl. Darl is my brother. Darl. Darl  p201

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