As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying

William Faulkner\'s As I Lay Dying is a
novel about how the conflicting agendas within a family tear it apart.

Every member of the family is to a degree responsible for what goes wrong,
but none more than Anse. Anse\'s laziness and selfishness are the underlying
factors to every disaster in the book.

As the critic Andre Bleikasten agrees,

"there is scarcely a character in Faulkner so loaded with faults and vices"

At twenty-two Anse becomes sick from working
in the sun after which he refuses to work claiming he will die if he ever
breaks a sweat again. Anse becomes lazy, and turns Addie into a baby factory
in order to have children to do all the work. Addie is inbittered by this,
and is never the same. Anse is begrudging of everything. Even the cost
of a doctor for his dying wife seems money better spent on false teeth
to him. "I never sent for you" Anse says "I take you to witness I never
sent for you" (37) he repeats trying to avoid a doctor\'s fee.

Before she dies Addie requests to be buried
in Jefferson. When she does, Anse appears obsessed with burying her there.

Even after Addie had been dead over a week, and all of the bridges to Jefferson
are washed out, he is still determined to get to Jefferson.

Is Anse sincere in wanting to fulfill his
promise to Addie, or is he driven by another motive? Anse plays "to perfection
the role of the grief-stricken widower" (Bleikasten 84) while secretly
thinking only of getting another wife and false teeth in Jefferson. When
it becomes necessary to drive the wagon across the river, he proves himself
to be undeniably lazy as he makes Cash, Jewel, and Darl drive the wagon
across while he walks over the bridge, a spectator.

Anse is also stubborn; he could have borrowed
a team of mules from Mr. Armstid, but he insists that Addie would not have
wanted it that way. In truth though Anse uses this to justify trading Jewel\'s
horse for the mules to spare himself the expense. Numerous times in the
book he justifies his actions by an interpretation of Addie\'s will.

Anse not only trades Jewel\'s horse without
asking, but he also steals Cash\'s money. Later on he lies to his family
saying that he spent his savings and Cash\'s money in the trade. "I thought
him and Anse never traded," Armstid said. "Sho," they did "All they liked
was the horse" Eustace a farmhand of Mr. Snopes said. Anse steels Cash\'s
money and towards the end of the book he also takes ten dollars from Dewey


The ending of the book is best explained
by the words of Irving Howe. "When they reach town, the putrescent corpse
is buried, the daughter fails in her effort to get an abortion, one son
is badly injured, another has gone mad, and at the very end, in a stroke
of harsh comedy, the father suddenly remarries" (138).

With money he has begrudged, stolen, and
talked his way out of paying, he finally buys some new teeth and a new
wife for the price of a graphophone. What defies explanation is why Anse
is so cold-hearted and indifferent to his children? What has changed him
from the hard working twenty-two year old man he once was.

In conclusion, by thinking only of himself

Anse destroys his family. He is selfish whenever his need\'s conflict with
those of his family. His motives for cheating and lying range from the
greed of money to self pity. Instead of what can I do for them Anse will
always be the one thinking what can they do for me.

Works Cited

Bleikasten, Andre. Faulkner\'s As I Lay

Dying. Bloomington/London: Indiana University Press, 1973.

Howe, Irving. William Faulkner: A Critical

Study. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1975.

William, Faulkner. As I Lay Dying. New

York: Random House, 1985.