As I Lay DyingIn William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Addie Bundren, who is the one dying, is the central character. Her misery is shared by the family and those with whom she has interacted in life, just as Addie likes it. Her eventual death and the proceding events serve to unite the family in further sharing her despair.
Addie regrets having children, with the exception of her third son, Jewel (an illegitimate child conceived of her affair with Reverend Whitfield). Children represent growth and vitality, which Addie has difficulty experiencing as she feels stagnant, wasting away with the Bundrens. Excluding Jewel, whom she coddles, she treats all children (including her own) with cruelty, because she can only connect with them this way; She needs others to suffer alongside her to feel validated.Addie was a school teacher who “looked forward to the times when her pupils faulted, so she could whip them.” (Faulkner, 170) Beating children made her feel respected, acknowledged, and connected to life. “Now you are aware of me!” (Faulkner, 170), she thought, as she drew blood from the students, making them feel suffering as she did; she reveled in the intermingling of “blood strange to theirs and strange to her own” (Faulkner, 170), validating her existence through their analogous fluids.Similarly to her disdain for her pupils, whose vitality eludes her without her implementation of cruelty, she despised her first-born son, Cash, who violated her “aloneness” through his existence by being a burden and an obligation. (Faulkner, 172) His birth made her realize that “living was terrible.
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” When he reaches adulthood, Addie (as well as the rest of the family) treats Cash with a negligent, unappreciative disregard, even though the text reveals that Cash is the Bundrens’ stabilizing anchor. (Faulkner, 171)