What does Cash's list of thirteen reasons for beveling the coffin's edges reveal about him?

Quick answer:

Cash is rationalizing his mother's death through his work to make the coffin. Chapter 12, Section I: "The Mother of a Queen"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Through Cash's description of making his mother's coffin, the reader can tell that he is very meticulous and also has a difficult time dealing with her death. Instead of engaging directly with his emotions, Cash prefers to detail the reasons that he produced the coffin the way he did:


This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

made it on the bevel.

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

2. There is twice the gripping-surface to each seam.

3. The water will have to seep into it on a slant. Water moves easiest up and down or straight across.

4. In a house people are upright two thirds of the time. So the seams and joints are made up-and-down. Because the stress is up-and-down.

5. In a bed where people lie down all the time, the joints and seams are made sideways, because the stress is sideways.

6. Except.

7. A body is not square like a crosstie.

8. Animal magnetism.

9. The animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel.

10. You can see by an old grave that the earth sinks down on the bevel.

11. While in a natural hole it sinks by the center, the stress being up-and-down.

12. So I made it on the bevel.

13. It makes a neater job.

From the two lines that bookend this chapter, the reader can see that Cash views this production not as a familial obligation, but just another "job." The repetition in the chapter of the technical carpentry term "bevel" underscores Cash's relationship to this particular task as one of technical proficiency rather than familial love.

From the list of thirteen reasons that constitutes the chapter, however, the reader can also glean that he does indeed feel upset about his mother's death. Items 8 and 9 emphasizing "animal magnetism" hint towards irrational explanations for his seemingly technically proficient and calculating relationship to the coffin. Furthermore, Item 6 merely states "Except," which demonstrates a lapse in the seemingly ordered reasoning that the chapter presents. Thus, the chapter demonstrates that Cash both wishes to distance himself from his mother's death through his work and cannot help but engage with it through slips in his rationality.

Approved by eNotes Editorial