Anca Peiu Course: Within the Southern Myth

Student: Călugăru Bianca English Minor, 3rd year, group 7

The Feminine Government Or the Issue of the Feminine in Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

“Behold, as to bear guilt I was born, and in sin I was conceived.”1

Faulkner’s novel reveals itself as a mosaic of themes, motifs and even characters. Life, death, hatred, religion, endurance, sacrifice, whispered shouts, revenge, gender issues, all these are united in a spectacular attempt of embossing a unique, but purely human world in what is generally acknowledged as a “tour de force”2. But in the multitude of dramatis personae a feminine figure stands out, that of Addie, though her spirit now inhabits another world. The leading character of this work (and bear in mind all the senses of the word “leading”) comprises its entire essence. She does not leave such a strong impression due to who she is, as the use of present simple is inappropriate, but to what she represents. Her body is lifeless, but her influence still is overwhelming, seemingly even more in death, by means of other’s feelings towards her and their regrets of not having spent enough time around her or by means of the odor of the corpse. The entire plot revolves around her, she has been the womb of life, she experienced outstanding revelations, she has had a deeper understanding of language, sin and religion as a whole than any other individual form her community, she has been the nurturing person and without a shadow of a doubt, the strongest one. Although she didn’t give the name of her family (after all, what’s in a name?), she had been the one to perpetuate it; without her, there would have remained no plural, no Bundrens. But this is not the only outcome of her giving birth. By creating life she understood that she had been alone (loneliness as a kind of independence, of self-sufficiency, of peace) until that moment, that nobody had toiled with her inner resources and that her equilibrium had been intact, but she decently admitted everything with a cold attitude, denoting her will to progress and overcome this situation. Still, we notice another aspect, which raises an interesting question: how can a mother love and hate at the same time her offspring? When Jewel fell sick, she stood by his side, she

A personal attempt of translating “Că iată, întru fărădelegi m-am zămislit şi în păcate m-a născut maica mea”, from David’s Psalm 50 2 Wesley Morris, Barbara Alverson Morris, Reading Faulkner. Madison: The University of Winsconsin Press, 1989, 150.


in many cases. communication between them at a deeper level had proven to be impossible. 1961. Bucharest: Cartea Românească. are not able to effect this fusion of word and act. they transfer all the inherent symbolism to that particular person.”3 All the characters scarcely communicate. 5 Olga W. Addie and Anse. that of being buried in the land where she was born. Nor 3 4 Dorothy Tuck. And the greatest proof of all is Cash’s obedience and determination. their messages being of the simplest form. but by making statements such as “My mother is a fish” 4. 1964. Translated by Horia-Florian Popescu and Paul Goma. not at all. She was disappointed. although judging herself for not obeying her own strict moral rules. but doesn’t all this make her even more impressive? After all. She loved the individual that she had created. although he was in agonizing pain because of his broken leg and he didn’t even flinch while on the harsh road. William Faulkner. but she found herself breaking the rules. 2 . “ One of the basic premises of human relationships in the novel is that the individual is doomed to a cellular existence whose isolation can be broken by contact with another only rarely and. The elevated nature of their spirit doesn’t need to erupt publicly. interrupted not even by intense raining. smothering the philosophy of pure existence. In complete contrast with her. she does not try to find the solution not even in the fruit of her womb. all the mystique. creeds and principles. New York: Thomas Y. Anse has lived all his life to that point through and for words. if not out of love. Vickery. but the depth of their emotions is completely revealed in the fragments in italics. Vickery also observes this phenomenon.attended secretly his every need. He worked without rest at her coffin. When the man that has the status of her husband does not manage to fulfill her needs.”5 A weak soul is never a good companion for a real natural phenomenon. but within herself. Only a single phrase can bring together a multitude of feelings. But in spite of this lack. Therefore. 38. concluding that “Addie and Anse themselves represent the two polar opposites of action and words which must be meshed if their relationship is to be meaningful. They have managed to stick together. 76. Pe patul de moarte. at least out of fear and utter respect. thus failing. Crowell’s Handbook of Faulkner. Anse and all her children literarily go through flooding. fire and terrible exhaust just to fulfill her final wish. but felt that she fell into some sort of decay when it came to the expectations she had from herself. The word by itself leads to a paralysis of the ability to feel and act. Louisiana State University Press. As Dorothy Tuck asserts. 51. The Novels of William Faulkner. but power means accepting your weaknesses and trying to do more in this sense. he refused to make any kind of stop during their trip. she had the strength to admit that she hadn’t been flawless and that she had been continually subjected to making mistakes. 1972. the knowledge and the feelings that they have experienced being projected towards the real life referent. however. He is the one to stand close to what happens around him. Crowell Company. presenting himself as a seeker of meager values: a new life partner and a new set of false teeth. but to contemplate the events rather than involving and promptly reacting. Her own dogma was significantly more important than any other exterior general belief. the act itself results in excessive and uncontrolled responses to various stimuli both internal and external. as well as demanding more each and every minute from the ego and from all the other surrounding people. Olga W.

because she is. Yeats. considering each day as a way of atoning for her extramarital encounter and acting in consequence. as her discourse seemed one of an individual that knew more about sin and salvation than God Himself. a complex. of words vs. in their formal abstraction. 3 . 27. Surprisingly enough. good or bad. Cleanth Brooks states that “Woman is the source and sustainer of virtue and also a prime source of evil. If her birth came as a manner of compensating for Addie’s affair. 1963. the kind of religion to which she adheres in fact. actions and thoughts. There is no code for her to master – no initiation for the undergo. not to honest. which had led to Jewel’s coming to life. With her powerful natural drives and her instinct for the concrete and personal. but also realize that Anse was dead for her. Therefore giving life equalizes killing in the most profound manner. who tried to eliminate the unwanted fetus. attesting once again her deeper understanding of the world and of the eternal concepts. allowing contradiction to enter the stage: the moment she gave birth to Chase. who manages to lead things in the direction that she considers the best in spite of all the difficulties encountered. of the subconscious. true faith in a superior being. She created her family and she commands it even after her death. even as an “other”. Therefore we encounter again the matter of speaking vs. she does not need to agonize over her decisions. She had been aware of her mistakes and of her flaws and had seen every day as a means of compensating for her sin without complaining. towards becoming. exhibiting a truly imposing tone if needed. 7 Faulkner. and man’s codes. are always. But Addie felt that compunction manifested through words applies only to a religion of words.”6 In Addie. Faulkner. So her belief is supported by the events of real life. a round individual. Society considers man the head of the family. as she repeats throughout the scenes. she had been the voice of rationality and inner stability. Addie as a whole was and still proves to be. always a little beyond good and evil.did he complain when faced with a doctor that was able to appreciate the true extent of his sufferance and of the possible risks involved. killing at the level of the emotional. but Addie proved the opposite. that the feminine constituent governs. she was perceived as infatuated by Cora. believing. not also did she lose her personal freedom. who believed that she had been taking things too easily. All in all. good and evil combine in a complete unexpected way. She can be either. and man is not. a little absurd in her eyes. She had stood by her family as much as she considered necessary. Although she admitted her sin in front of God. she sees her pregnancy as an enormous step towards an arid life. in fact. at one point she seemed to have the revelation of her ending. a tub of guts. This tendency to annihilate rather than create was also projected on Dewey Dell. 151. She was the source of life. as it truly happened. Eliot and Warren. predicting that the Almighty would save her from water and fire7. The Hidden God: Hemingway. For this reason she has access to a wisdom which is veiled from man. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. she did and 6 Cleanth Brooks. but also the one invested with the authority of taking one’s own in an abstract sense.

Morris. Faulkner. Yeats. New York: Thomas Y. William. 1961. 5. Alverson Morris. Louisiana State University Press. Vickery. Cleanth. 1972. 4. 1963. Brooks. impressing with her ability to continue living through her spirit in the minds and souls of her close ones. Reading Faulkner. Works Cited 1. 4 . Crowell’s Handbook of Faulkner. Translated by Horia-Florian Popescu and Paul Goma. 3. Barbara. Crowell Company. Print. Print. Dorothy. 2. Print. Print. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Madison: The University of Winsconsin Press. Print. The Novels of William Faulkner. 1964. Wesley. Bucharest: Cartea Românească. Faulkner. Tuck.still governs her social milieu. 1989. Olga W. Pe patul de moarte. Eliot and Warren. The Hidden God: Hemingway.