Study Guide

As I Lay Dying Religion

By William Faulkner

Religion

Riches is nothing in the face of the Lord, for He can see into the heart. (2.5)

Religion offers solace for the Bundrens.

Now and then a fellow gets to thinking about it. Not often, though. Which is a good thing. For the Lord aimed for him to do and not to spend too much time thinking, because his brain it’s like a piece of machinery: it won’t stand a whole lot of racking. It’s best when it all runs along the same, doing the day’s work and not no one part used no more than needful. (16.22)

Vernon uses the idea of God to give authority to his own opinions.

"I can’t get nothing outen him except about a fish," she says. "It’s a judgment on them. I see the hand of the Lord upon this boy for Anse Bundren’s judgment and warning." (16.24)

Cora does the same as her husband – uses religion to back her own beliefs.

If it’s a judgment, it ain’t right. Because the Lord’s got more to do than that. He’s bound to have. (16.29)

He is more practical and less bound to dogma.

"Well, it’ll take the Lord to get her over that river now," Peabody says. "Anse can’t do it."

"And I reckon He will," Quick says. "He’s took care of Anse a long time, now."

"It’s a fact," Littlejohn says.

"Too long to quit now," Armstid says.

"I reckon He’s like everybody else around here," Uncle Billy says. "He’s done it so long now He can’t quit." (20.42-6)

Anse has gotten by only with the help of God and kind neighbors. Tull even remarks that there’s something about him that makes other men want to help.

"I’m bounding toward my God and my reward," Cora sung. (20.81)

Cora’s faith in God contrasts to the bad luck the Bundrens face throughout the novel. It suggests that her beliefs are unwarranted.

I am chosen of the Lord, for who He loveth, so doeth He chastiseth. But I be durn if He don’t take some curious ways to show it, seems like. (28.2)

Anse believes that God punishes him because He loves him. He (Anse) seems to be comforting himself.

"I give her my word," Anse says. "It is sacred on me. I know you begrudge it, but she will bless you in heaven." (33.12)

This would suggest that Anse tries so hard to fulfill his wife’s wishes for religious reasons.

I said, "Just because you have been a faithful wife is no sign that there is no sin in your heart, and just because your life is hard is no sign that the Lord’s grace is absolving you." And she said, "I know my own sin. I know that I deserve my punishment. I do not begrudge it." (39.1)

Addie views her death as the punishment she deserves for having an affair. That is why she so willingly goes toward death.

One day I was talking to Cora. She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too. (40.30)

Addie is more religious than Cora because she knows sin and salvation beyond mere words.