The novel, As I Lay Dying, was written by the American author William Faulkner. This story took place during the 1920s in a fictional town called Yoknapatowpha County in Mississippi. It told the death of Addie Bundren and her familys quest to honor her wish to be buried in the town of Jefferson. While the family is transporting Addie to her burial place, the Bundrens go through many obstacles. Many forces of nature occur, like the flooding of the river and bridges while crossing the river with the coffin that held Addies body. Even though they encounter these obstacles they do not give up because they want to fulfill her wishes of where she wants to be buried. Each family member plays a role in helping transport the body. Throughout the novel, many actions of the characters stand out on the journey. While examining the novel, it is noticeable of how the characters names mean something. Even though the names of the characters mean one thing, their actions show different than what their names mean. Darl, Jewel and Dewey Dell, stick out the most in this display of the names. Closer examination of the novel, As I Lay dying, will show that the names Faulkner uses for the characters contradict the characters personalities.
Darl, the second Bundren child, is the most sensitive and articulate of the family. When examining Darls name, according to Faye Friesen and Charles Peek, we can see that it stems from the word darling. Darling, according to Webster, is a dearly loved person or very pleasing. Many looked at Darl as the one with the most affection and stood out from the rest of the family. One character, by the name of Cora, stated I always said Darl was different from those others.. He was the only one of them that had his mothers nature, had any natural affection. (Faulkner 21). Darl was a character that expressed himself the most in his actions. His frustration about his mothers death led him to try to end everything by burning down a barn that held his mothers body. Even though Darl seemed sweet and innocent, he had some inner problems that no one really paid attention to. After the incident of him trying to burn down the barn, his family decided to send him to a mental institution. It was either send him to Jackson, or have Gillespie sue us. (Faulkner 232). The family had no choice but to send Darl away because he began to show a different side to him and started having split personalities. Darls name may have meant to be short for darling, but through his actions, he did not represent someone who was a darling.
A jewel is any object that is regarded with special affection or a precious stone, according to Webster. Jewel was Addies favorite child and the one that she even put before God. He is my cross and he will be my salvation. (Faulkner 168). In this quote, Addie was referring to Jewel, instead of God, who should be her salvation. Jewel revealed a real love and dedication to his mother, strong work ethic and valued independence. Although Jewels name represents something precious or special affection, Jewel was not that affectionate. He often isolated himself from the family and just wanted to be with his horse. He watches Jewel as he passes.. three hundred yards back. (Faulkner 107). As the family was travelling to take the body back to Jefferson, Jewel rides up along side of the wagon by himself instead of inside the wagon with the rest of the family. Jewels reason for the things he did was a mystery and often confused for selfishness. A jewel is something that everybody loves and wants to hang on to. The only person that was attached to Jewel was his mother and Jewel isolated himself from the rest of the family, so he did not represent total qualities of a jewel. Many of his actions were questioned by his family and others. Even though jewels name stands for something precious and affection, his actions displayed opposite of what his name stood for.
The only daughter of the Bundren household was Dewey Dell. Faye Friesen and Charles Peek stated that dew could point to youth and dell means a young girl of a vagrant class. In everyones eyes, Dewey Dell, seventeen years old, was a sweet and innocent young girl. Dewey Dell was young but she was dealing with adult problems. He could do some much for me if he just would.(Faulkner 58). Dewey Dell was referring to her mothers doctor Peabody. Dewey Dell had become pregnant by Lafe. She was in need of an abortion and she felt that Peabody could do this for her but she only has ten dollars. Dewey Dell is so afraid but desperate for the abortion. She is dealing with this problem basically on her own with no help from anyone. Dewey Dell is young but is forced to make grown up decisions. One day she enters a store and meets a clerk named MacGowan and he lies to her about being a doctor and gives her some drugs do that he can take advantage of her. Dewey Dell faces troubles that normal teenagers do not have to deal with. Parts of her name may come to symbolize someone who is a young girl but Dewey Dell does not deal with young girl issues. In the way that Faulkner portrays her name is contradictory of her personality.
In conclusion, the names in As I Lay Dying, contradict the characters actual behavior. Darl, Jewel and Dewey Dell represented this action throughout the novel. When you examine their actions, it can be realized that they do not fully live up to the definition of their names. Faulkner used these names to carry out the personalities of these characters and it was shown that the names did not fit the characters completely.