Study Guide

As I Lay Dying Family

By William Faulkner

Family

"Eat," he says. "Get the goddamn stuff out of sight while you got a chance, you pussel-gutted bastard. You sweet son of a b****," he says. (3.12)

Jewel speaks to his horse in an unusually crude way. Since we know his horse is his most valued possession, we get the sense that he deals with love differently than his brothers. This goes some way in explaining his strange reaction to his mother’s death.

I said you’d just let her alone. Sawing and knocking, and keeping the air always moving so fast on her face that when you’re tired you cant breathe it, and that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less. One lick less. (4.2)

Jewel’s love for Addie alienates him and causes the rest of the family to resent him.

"If everybody wasn’t burning hell to get her there," Jewel says in that harsh, savage voice. "With Cash all day long right under the window, hammering and sawing at that – "

"It was her wish," pa says. "You got no affection nor gentleness for her. You never had." (5.21-2)

Although Addie’s death brings the family physically together, they are torn apart over their varying feelings for her.

"She is going to die," he says. And old turkey-buzzard Tull coming to watch her die but I can fool them.

"When is she going to die?" I say.

"Before we get back," he says.

"Then why are you taking Jewel?" I say.

"I want him to help me load," he says. (7.6-10)

Darl is so jealous of his mother’s love for Jewel that he deprives her of her favorite son’s presence at her death.

"Why didn’t you send for me sooner?" I say.

"Hit was jest one thing and then another," he says. "That ere corn me and the boys was aimin’ to git up with, and Dewey Dell a-takin’ good keer of her, and folks comin’ in, a-offerin’ to help and sich, till I jest thought…"

"Damn the money," I say. "Did you ever hear of me worrying a fellow before he was ready to pay?"

"Hit ain’t begrudgin’ the money," he says. "I jest kept a-thinkin’…She’s goin’, is she?" (11.16-7)

This is the first of many pieces of evidence we get suggesting that Anse does not really love Addie.

Cash is filling up the holes he bored in the top of it. He is trimming out plugs for them, one at a time, the wood wet and hard to work. He could cut up a tin can and hide the holes and nobody wouldn’t know the difference. Wouldn’t mind, anyway. I have seen him spend a hour trimming out a wedge like it was glass he was working, when he could have reached around and picked up a dozen sticks and drove them into the joint and made it do. (20.20)

Cash shows his love for his mother in the meticulous work he does for her coffin.

"It’s all right," Cash said. "He earned the money…So I dont reckon that horse cost anybody anything except Jewel. I dont reckon we need worry." (32.52)

Jewel and Cash show their love for each other by uniting against their father.

[Addie] cried hard, maybe because she had to cry so quiet; maybe because she felt the same way about tears she did about deceit, hating herself for doing it, hating him because she had to.

Addie’s love for Jewel is complex and different from her love for her other sons.

"I give my promise," he says. "She is counting on it." (33.16)

Why does Anse work so hard to get Addie’s coffin to Jefferson? All his other actions seem to suggest that he doesn’t respect her (you know, like picking up a new wife at her grave site).

"It never bothered me much," [Cash] said.

"You mean, it never bothered Anse much," I said. (54.6)

Peabody recognizes that Anse has taken advantage of his children’s obedience to the point of endangering their well being.