As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner


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" (84). 

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 embittered by this, and is never the

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

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

Anse steels Cash's money and towards the end of the book he
also takes ten dollars from Dewey Dell. 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"

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,

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