As I Lay Dying Main Characters
Addie is Bundren’s wife and mother to Vardaman, Dell, Dewey, Darl, and Cash. Her death and subsequently, absent protagonist triggers the novel’s action. She was a former school teacher who deeply loved her favorite child, Jewel, more than the rest of her family, God and even her husband whom she despised. She is an unhappy woman who believes that living her life is a full repentance for her sins. She wished that she be buried with her family in Jefferson, a one-and-half week journey. Addie speaks to the reader long her death. Her philosophy, like her husbands, is that the purpose of living is to make you ready to stay dead for a long time. Her affair with Whitfield can either be seen as her efforts of enjoying herself considering that she names the resultant child ‘Jewel’ or rather destroying herself due to her concentration on death.
Darl is the second born to the family of Bundren. Being the most articulate and most sensitive member of the household, he contributes a lot of interior monologs in the story. The family runs into trouble transporting Addie, and his frustration with the whole ordeal drives him to try to end the suffering by incinerating his mother’s coffin. He is an intricate representation of the thought process. Some of his monologs are straightforward and are a stream of consciousness. He acts as a narrator who presents the shortfall of this novel for lacking an objective third party narrator. Though his narrative is sophisticated, he is isolated and cruel considering that comes between his sister and her lover, besides teasing Jewel. His reason for not connecting with the family is that he had seen the worst in human nature and he hasn’t recovered.
Anse, a poor farmer with an overwhelming selfish interest and afflicted with a hunchback happens to be the head of the Bundren family. He has poor childbearing skills which are a reason to the predicament of his children who hate him. However, he achieves his aims of acquiring a false set of teeth and burying her wife in her hometown. He has been toothless for the last fifteen years which had not let him eat normally. He also acquires a new wife and a gramophone. He is a begrudging father who doesn’t love her children. However, there is nothing overly hostile about but comes out as an irritating and weak man. His philosophy is that people should stay in one place; something which fails to address his role in the society but allows him to survive.
Cash is a skilled carpenter and the eldest child of the family. He is selfless and patient to the point that his features seem absurd. He comes as a consistent character in the story considering that he did not complain about her broken leg which made him let the injury worsen to the point that he won’t walk. Despite the fact that his monologs are scanty, they come to dominate the closing events. His sensitivity and imagination are way below that of Darl, but he is nonetheless a trustworthy and compassionate narrator.
Jewel is an illegitimate son of Addie by Whitfield and comes out as a strong man who is treated as a member of the family. He is a hot-tempered, impatient, physical and fiery being. Despite their companionship in the work field, he and Darl live in conflict and competition. Formally, he doesn’t present any philosophy, but he has some unmatched dedication to her mother, or maybe to her memory. He saves her corpse from the fire, from the river and sacrifices his horse for a team to carry her mother’s body to Jefferson. His dedication to his dead mom is somewhat like a variation of Addie’s death-centered philosophy.
- Dewey Dell Bundren
- Vardaman Bundren
- Vernon Tull
- Cora Tull
- The Gillespie Boy