Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Originally 1930. New York: Vintage International Edition, 1990.
[Cora] “Someone comes through the hall. It is Darl. He does not look in as he passes the door. Eula watches him as he goes on and passes from sight again toward the back. Her hand rises and touches her beads lightly, then her hair. When she finds me watching her, her eyes go blank” (9). (AD: sexual attraction in the same room as Addie’s death. Waiting to consume her role as “female” in Darl’s life.)
Cora describes Dewey Dell as “that near-naked girl always standing over Addie with a fan” (24).
Dewey Dell describes obliquely how she came to be pregnant:
“The first time me and Lafe picked on down the row… picking on into the secret shade with my sack and Lafe’s sack. Because I said will I or wont I when the sack was half full because I said if the sack is full when we get to the woods it won’t be me. I said if I will turn up the next row but if the sack is full, I cannot help it. It will be that I had to do it all the time and I cannot help it. And we picked on toward the secret shade and our eyes would drown together touching on his hands and my hands and I didn’t say anything. I said ‘What are you doing?’ and he said ‘I am picking into your sack.’ And so it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it” (27). (AD: feminine feeling of helplessness regarding her own fertility. Pandora’s box metaphor of woman as container that man literally puts his seed into: interesting here that it isn’t actually his seed, it’s just generic “seed,” as if it’s so archetypical that it doesn’t really belong to either of them. Whose seed is this anyway?)
[Tull] “It’s a hard life on women, for a fact. Some women. I mind my mammy lived to be seventy and more. Worked every day, rain or shine; never a sick day since her last chap was born until one day she kind of looked around her and then she went and taken that lace-trimmed night gown she had had for forty-five years and never wore out of the chest and put it on and laid down on the bed and pulled the covers up and shut her eyes. ‘You will all have to look out for pa the best you can,’ she said. ‘I’m tired.'” (30).
Anse keeps saying “the Lord giveth” but not finishing the verse with the Lord taketh away (30). Perhaps because, as we find when he obtains a new wife at the end, for him the Lord does keep giving women – Addie herself being “taken” doesn’t really matter; she is a maternal function , as Marder would say. As Kate says at the end of the chapter, “he’ll get another one before cotton-picking” (34).
Darl “It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.” (39).
Peabody the doctor “She has been dead for ten days. I suppose it’s having been a part of Anse for so long that she cannot even make that change, if change it be. I can remember when I was young I believed death to be a phenomenon of the body; now I know it to be merely a function of the mind – and that of the minds of the ones who suffer the bereavement…. she is no more than a bundle of rotton sticks” (44).
“That’s the one trouble with this country: everything, weather, all, hangs on too long” (45). (AD: Addie = weather)
“I have seen it before in women. Seen them drive from the room them coming with sympathy and pity, with actual help, and clinging to some trifling animal to whom they never were more than pack-horses. That’s what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, carry with us into operating rooms, carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again” (46).
Her last look is at Vardaman: she ignores Anse completely (48). Darl wasn’t there for her death, but is narrating the death-story. Why? Is Addie the narrator and her experience conjured through her children?
The sexual cow: Vardaman narrates “The cow is standing in the barn door, chewing. When she sees me come into the lot she lows, her mouth full of flopping green, her tongue flopping.
‘I ain’t a-goin to milk you. I aint a-goin to do nothing for her.’
I hear her turn when I pass. When I turn she is just behind me with her sweet, hot, hard breath.
‘Didn’t I tell you I wouldn’t?’
She nudges me, snuffing She moans deep inside, her mouth closed. I jerk my hand, cursing her like Jewel does.” (55). (AD: conflation of mother, fish, cow; maternity, sexuality. Milking the cow is somehow a service “for them” that killed his mother: he knows that reproduction is in service of the type of machine by which his mother is killed and eaten and replaced. Also knows that the cow’s milk is no substitute for his mother’s milk that he has lost.)
“Cooked and et. Cooked and et.” (of the fish – but also of Addie. They kill and consume her like the fish. Children and family milk you dry, kill you and consume you. Vardaman knows this on some childish, primal level. Also, perhaps he is a fish-man to pair with Freud’s wolf-man – he knows that his father’s power to castrate killed his mother in the same way that he killed the fish. He has this power in himself, as a male, and this is terrifying.)
Dewey Dell “He is his guts and I am my guts. And I am Lafe’s guts. That’s it.” (AD: description of fertility. Having a baby = being; having someone’s baby = being their guts.)
“Pa helps himself and pushes the dish on… He looks like right after the maul hits the steer and is no longer alive and don’t yet know that it is dead” (61). (AD: because he was Addie’s guts too, in DD’s narration at least)
“The cow lows at the foot of the bluff. She nuzzles at me, snuffing, blowing her breath in a sweet, hot blast, through my dress, against my hot nakedness, moaning. ‘You got to wait a little while. Then I’ll tend to you.’ She follows me into the barn where I set the bucket down. She breathes into the bucket, moaning. ‘I told you. You just got to wait, now. I got more to do than I can tend to.’ The barn is dark. When I pass, he kicks the wall a single blow. I go on… The cow in silhouette against the door nuzzles at the silhouette of the bucket, moaning” (61). (AD: this cow is ghostly. Is it Addie? Mother who has been milked lowing? Or Anti-Addie: please milk me? Warning DD. Feminine milk, fertility, cow sniffing her like a dog sniffs blood, familiarity, like for like. Cow’s milk is stolen from her. Is female fertility? Both want it anyway, and need some sort of relief from it.)
“What you got in you aint nothing to what I got in me, even if you are a woman, too. …The cow breathes upon my hips and back, her breath warm, sweet, stertorous, moaning” (63). femininity = sweet, stertorous, nature, warm, colonized/colonizable)
“I feel like a wet seed wild in the hot blind earth” (64). (AD: one problem of female fertility is that the woman still perceives herself as the seed rather than the box: she sees herself as more than the maternal function.)
Vardaman: “It was not her. I was there, looking. I saw. I thought it was her, but it was not. It was not my mother. She went away when the other one laid down in her bed and drew the quilt up. She went away” (66). (AD: (M)other = literally other/not herself: mother is not a body that is useless to a child. Usefulness to a child makes her the Mother rather than the other.)
“It was not her because it was laying right yonder in the dirt. And ow it is all chopped up. I chopped it up. It’s laying in the kitchen in the bleeding pan, waiting to be cooked and et. Then it wasn’t and she was, and now it is and she wasn’t. And tomorrow it will be cooked and et and she will be him and pa and Cash and Dewey Dell and there won’t be anything in the box so she can breathe” (67). (AD: Vardaman knows that he, as a male child, has contributed to his mother’s death.)
Tull: “I reckon Cora’s right when she says the reason the Lord had to create women is because man don’t know his own good when he sees it” (71).
Darl’s obsessive confusion of “is” and “is not” : “Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be. And then I must be, or I could not empty myself for sleep in a strange room. And so if I am not emptied yet, I am is” (80-1). (AD: Addie Bundren’s being as dependent on her offspring as theirs is on her: is = not having emptied yourself. Offspring = fullness of self.)
Vardaman: “My mother is a fish.” (AD:What does fishiness mean for maternity? Vardaman is also a fish. Neither can breathe or survive in the Bundren household. Abject when out of place. Killed and et.)
Addie is buried in her wedding dress (88). Not even in death can we inconvenience patriarchal institutions – she’s defined by her relationship to men
Darl : “I cannot love my mother because I have no mother. Jewel’s mother is a horse.” (95). (AD: since the children don’t add up, is it possible that Darl doesn’t exist? Miscarriage? Addie’s spirit? Since Jewel’s father isn’t Vardaman’s father, is Jewel’s mother Vardaman’s mother? Does paternity change the mother? Is Addie a fish or a horse or a wife or Addie?)
Vardaman: “I am. Darl is my Brother.
But you are, Darl, I said.
I know it, Darl said. That’s why I am not is, Are is too many for one woman to foal.” (101). (AD: A little phenomenology for a funeral. What is the difference between are and is? A matter of number, of perception, of the speaking subject.)
Samson: “Who’s talking about him?” she said. “Who cares about him?” she says, crying. “I just wish that you and him and all the men in the world that torture us alive and flout us dead, dragging us up and down the country–”
“Now, now,” I says. “You’re upset.”
“Don’t you touch me!” she says. “Don’t you touch me!”
A man can’t tell nothing about them. I lived with the same one fifteen years and I be durn if I can” (117). (AD: She realizes that this is about Anse rather than Addie, and that it is always about the patriarch rather than the woman. She realizes that man’s touch is the thing that cooks and eats her.)
His wife’s name is Rachel: “I could still hear her crying even after she was asleep…” (118). (AD: Biblical Rachel weeping or her children. For women’s reproductivity.)
Dewey Dell: “That’s what they mean by the womb of time: the agony and despair of spreading bones, the hard girdle in which lie the outraged entrails of events” (121).
Dewey Dell is always looking at people… “that gal watching me like I had made to touch her” (125). She’s afraid of men touching her because she knows that’s what happens to women.
Giving makes Addie sick. “Jewel,” ma said, looking at him. “I’ll give – I’ll give –– give ––” Then she began to cry…. a little sick looking” (135). (AD: giving makes her sick – they kill and eat her. Communion loaf. Then they drink her drained fish-blood.)
Darl: “It is as though the space between us were time: an irrevocable quality. It is as though time, no longer running straight before us in a diminishing line, now runs parallel between us like a looping string, the distance being the doubling accretion of the thread and not the interval between” (146). (AD: this is what the narrative structure says about abject time – if Addie narrates, maybe this is “dead time”)
“together we shove Addie forward, wedging her between the tools and the wagon bed” (147). (not her body – but her. Addie.)
Cora tells Addie that “God gave you children to comfort your hard human lot and for a token of his own suffering and love, for in love you conceived and bore them,” but Addie considers them a punishment rather than a salvation” (167). She also believes though that Jewel rather than Jesus will save her “from the water and the fire” (168). Literal interpretation of the verse “woman will be saved through childbearing.” Children will save her in mortal rather than immortal way.
“I would go down the hill to the spring where I could be quiet and hate them… And when I would have to look after them day after day, each with his and her secret and selfish thought, and blood strange to each other blood and strange to mine, and think that this seemed to be the only way I could get ready to stay dead, I would hate my father for ever having planted me” (170). These children seem to be her siblings, but it’s unclear: children are kind of interchangeable. Children = a never ending cycle; Plath’s “immortality she never wanted”
Anse comes to her because he has no “womenfolk”: “I ain’t got none…That’s what I come to see you about.” (171). She is a commodity, she is the function of “womenfolk.”
“So I took Anse. And when I knew that I had Cash, I knew that living was terrible and that this was the answer to it” (171). (Anse is also a commodity, a paternal function. Living is terrible and children are the answer to it.)
“When he was born I knew that motherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not. I knew that fear was invented by someone that had never had the fear; pride who never had the pride… i knew that it had been, not that my aloneness had to be violated over and over each day, but that it had never been violated until Cash came. Not even by Anse in the nights.” (172). (AD: Maternity is extra-lingual, it escapes language. Words don’t work in motherhood. Mothers don’t need words.
“He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear” (172).
Anse “tricked” her into having Darl… “but then I realized that I had been tricked by words older than Anse or love, and that the same word had tricked Anse too, and that my revenge would be that he would never know I was taking revenge” (173). (man = the words she’s tricked with; sex=being tricked)
After Darl “I was three now.” (173). She’s three people now.
Cora told Addie “what I owed to my children and to Anse and to God. I gave Anse the children. I did not ask for them. I did not even ask him for what he could have given me: not-Anse” (174).
“My children were of me alone, of the wild blood boiling along the earth, of me and of all that lived; of none and of all. Then I found that I had Jewel. When I waked to remember to discover it, he was two months gone” (175).
“I gave Anse Dewey Dell to negative Jewel. Then I gave him Vardaman to replace the child I had robbed him of. And now he has three children that are his and not mine. And then I could get ready to die.” (176). Woman has children as fidelity pawns on the marriage market. The imprint of her soul stays around long enough to tell her story – or she’s narrating it all, since her children ARE her.)
they know something is up with Jewel’s parentage (195)
Dewey Dell tries to buy an abortion pill and the doctor says “The Lord gave you what you have, even if He did use the devil to do it; you let Him take it away from you if it’s His will to do so” (203). (AD: Wait on a man or a male god to determine your fertility.)
Cash: some are more kin to each other than others (234)
“Dewey Dell” sounds pastoral
Pa takes Dewey Dell’s abortion money: male manipulates female fertility again. He uses it to buy teeth so he can obtain a new wife.
Cash: “It’s Cash and JEwel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell,” pa says, kind of hangdog and proud too, with his teeth and all, even if he wouldn’t look at us. “Meet Mrs Bundren,” he says.” (261).
vs. Addie, she has no name. Women are replacable and buyable insofar as they are a “womenfolk” function. He uses’s DD’s money to buy a new wife. Like at the end of Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, the female protagonist’s fate is always to be replaced immediately by a new, and more appropriate (here because alive) wife. All this happens As Addie Lays Dying – man must always have a woman.