As I Lay Dying Zora Neale Hurston Ap Literature Essay

817 words - 4 pages

Addie’s Death
Many authors cement fates for their characters that result from a critical situation happening in their plot. The author, William Faulkner, created a pivotal moment in his novel where all the characters were affected by the actions of one.  In his novel, As I Lay Dying, readers notice one irreversible choice made by Anse that causes the whole Bundren family to be affected. As I Lay Dying is written in multiple first-person narratives and as one decision is taken they all narrate how their lives were affected.
Initially, readers learn about Addie Bundren—the mother of the family—who is very ill. Her children express deep worry for her and as Addie begins to worsen they prepare for her death. Anse, the father of the family, has the opportunity to call the doctor in order to help Addie but he doesn't. In the chapter narrated by himself, Anse shows a sense of annoyance when he sees the doctor at his house. He exclaims twice, “I never sent for you.” (37) Anse chose not to seek medical attention for his own wife. His action led to the death of Addie, but more importantly it determined the fate of other characters in the book. For example, the children in the family each make sacrifices to fulfill Addie’s last wish—to be buried in Jefferson. Those sacrifices include the long journey to Jefferson where they find themselves with problems.
During the trip, the wagon they use to transport the coffin with Addie’s body falls into the river. They all try to save the coffin and the wagon. In the process, Cash, their son, gets into an accident and breaks his leg. Due to Anse’s stinginess, he says that they should put cement on Cash’s leg instead of seeking treatment. Consequently, Cash loses his leg and the doctor tells him that he will “hobble around fine on one leg.” (240) The long journey also brings the detainment of Darl who is believed to have gone insane. Darl, brother of Cash, burns down the barn that contained Addie’s body. Dewey Dell, their sister, afirms that Darl went crazy and later on was “ caged up and taken to Jefferson.” (250-251) These consequences were all caused due to one choice Anse made. He chose not to seek medical attention for Addie telling her that she “is not sick but tired,” telling her that she should just “lay down and rest,” that she will “get up tomorrow.” (37) Anse wasn't a responsible husband that sought to keep his wife healthy by seeking the doctor’s care. Avoiding the death Addie would have changed the fate of all the characters. With that, the Bundren family could have never felt the need to go to Jefferson avoiding Cash’s injury and Darl’s questionable actions.
Some might say that Anse couldn't have stopped Addie’s death even if he tried. This might be true, but Anse could have contributed to slowing down her death. He only told her to lay down. Instead of showing some concern for his wife, or at least demonstrate effort to prolong her life. Anse only told her to “lay still and rest,” and when the doctor confronted him about not calling him sooner he just gave an excuse saying, “she’s just a little tired but she’ll-.” (37) The doctor cuts him off because even he considers it is absurd how his carelessness eventually caused Addie’s sickness to progress to death. It is evident that the negligence Anse portrayed led to the death of his wife. Should Anse have called the doctor earlier, Addie would be alive and the whole arduous trip to Jefferson completely avoided. The reader’s notice more and more his terrible judgement of decisions even before the trip begins. First of all. He decided to embark on the trip knowing that there had been heavy rain causing floods including the flooded river that the coffin fell in to. Next, readers even view his motive to carry out the promise of taking Addie to Jefferson, not because he promised, and not because of his respect for his dead wife, instead, he says himself, “Now I can get them teeth."(111) His motivation was not keeping his word, but receiving new teeth from his wife. All his selfish decisions cause more problems to the family, but those decisions are just reflections of his poor judgement towards his wife as well.
Faulkner derived his novel from the detrimental choice Anse took initially as well as the other poor judgement choices he went on to take. All the characters were affected by his choice and the author took advantage of it to portray his purpose of his novel. He wrote the novel to demonstrate that the choices one makes affects the reality or lives of others. His novel reminds the readers of the inherent subjectivity that can be portrayed in any story, narrative, or memory through choices one makes.


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