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Kloss, R.J. (1981). Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Am. Imago, 38(4):429-444.

(1981). American Imago, 38(4):429-444

Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

Robert J. Kloss

The wide variety of responses to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying stems, in part, from the rich ambiguity of its characters' motivations. Melvin Backman notes that, before embarking on his own admittedly conjectural interpretation, “any attempt to explore the meaning of As I Lay Dying demands an imaginative as well as a close reading of the text.” My own approach attempts to do just that, but firmly grounded in the text and in what we know of human nature. It addresses itself to a problem which critics have not examined in depth. In contrast to their sister, Dewey Dell, whose involvement in sex is total, the three young men— Cash, Darl, and Jewel—in the prime of their life (their ages probably range from thirty down to nineteen), are handsome, virile, and capable, yet not one of them shows the slightest interest in a woman. In the novel, no sexual relationship, past, present, or future, is mentioned or even hinted at. A partial explanation for the young men's estrangement from women lies close at hand—in the tie each has to the mother, Addie, the dominant and dominating figure in the tale. When Addie's death is imminent, Tull's wife and daughters state, “I reckon Cash and Darl can get married now,’ Eula says… ‘What about Jewel?’ Kate says, ‘He can, too,’ Eula says.” In the seminal study from which most psychological interpretations proceed, Olga Vickery observes:

Thus it is Addie not as a mother, corpse, or promise but as an element in the blood of her children who dominates and shapes their complex psychological reactions.

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