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Darl in As I Lay Dying Essay


William Faulkners As I Lay Dying depicts the life of a poor southern family during the early 1900s. The family goes through the death of their mother and wife, Addie Burden, and set out to accomplish her final wish of a burial in Jefferson. These events of the novel are told through the eyes of multiple narrators, most notably Anse and Addie Bundrens second child, Darl. Darl is the primary narrator of the book, delivering the largest number of interior monologues. Because of his intellectually complex mind and his unique powers of perception Darls narration goes beyond the scope of what characters knowledge should be. His large amount of narrations depicts dysfunction of the Burden family in addition to the important events in the story. The use Darl as the primary narrator in the novel allows Faulkner to expose key aspects of the Burden family through Darls powers of perception, thereby allowing the entirety of the novel to be shown to the reader.

Darls unique powers of perception allows him to narrate key aspects of the story to the reader that a normal character would not possess, this ability sets him apart. In the play Darl can see things, he has an ability to read peoples minds allowing him to narrate events that should be outside his characters ability. In the book Darl is seen by outsiders of the family as being odd, always seeming different from the others (26). To the people around him he comes off as complex and distant. Why he acts this way is because his powers of perception act as telepathic link to other peoples minds, giving him the ability to know things that should be outside the scope of his knowledge. These powers are revealed when Darl discovers Dewey Dells pregnancy when she says, I saw Darl and he knew. He said he knew without the words (27). Darls ability to read Dewey Dell and know that she is pregnant shows his telepathic ability; he should of had no way of knowing of Dewey Dells pregnancy by looking at her. Darls narration is used to expose events and ideas that would otherwise remain hidden within the book, allowing Darl to almost act as an omniscient narrator. This fact becomes clear when Darl is able to vividly depict the death of Addie, although he is not present. These powers of perception that Darl has, allows for the reader exposure to the key aspects in the Burden family, like Dewey Dells pregnancy, through Darls narration, giving the reader to get a better picture where they otherwise be limited.

The narration of Darl allows for the ulterior motives of the Burden family to reach Jefferson to be revealed. Darls unwavering love for his mother exposes the corruptness of the Burden family through the contrast of their motives to get to Jefferson. Darl is the only person in the Burden family that truly loves his mother without any reservations. Although Jewel was the one she [] always cherished (24) he does not openly show the love for his mother like Darl does. Darl cares deeply about the fate of his mother, even an outsider to the family like Cora can see Darls love for Addie when she says looking upon him, He just stood and looked at his dying mother, his heart too full for words (25). This love is only made more clear when juxtaposed against the other members of the Burden family, revealing their ulterior motives to reach Jefferson: Anse to get a new set of false teeth, Vardaman to get bananas, Dewey Dell to get an abortion, and Cash to get his music player. Except for Jewel, Darl is the only member of the Burden family to not use the trip as a way to accomplish their own person gains. With Darls narration we are able to see these key aspects of the family, as they have a sheer lack of respect for Addie. When they should be worrying about their dead mother, they are more worried about themselves; placing the pursuit of their own personal gains in front of their family. Without Darls impartial narration of the key aspects of the Burden family the dysfunction of their family could not be revealed in the novel, thereby, altering the perception of the reader.

Darls narration leads to the realization of Jewels illegitimacy, linking key contrasts between them and coming up with a solution the reader can interpret. Darl and Jewels brotherly relationship has always been different then normal. Darl acknowledges the fact that they are different when he says early on, Jewels frayed broken straw hat was a full head above my own (3). Logically Jewel being the younger brother, should not be a whole head taller then Darl. This size comparison by Darl foreshadows the fact that Darl and Jewel are not true brothers. Darl resents his brother because how much Addie loves him. He is fascinated with Jewel because of his initial struggle to understand him, but as the Darls narration progresses he realizes that Jewel cared for Addie by the way he projects emotions towards his horse. Darl unravels the familys secret when he realizes that Jewel is the "cross" (94) that Addie bears, representing that fact that Jewel is an illegitimate child. This is the reason why Addie loves Jewel more then she loves Darl. Darl affirms this realization to the reader when he describes Jewel in his narration with symbolic wooden imagery linking him to the cross (94), this leads Darl to ask Jewel later in the book, Jewel [] whose son are you? (212). The revelation by Darl of Jewels illegitimacy reveals a larger problem within the Burden Family to the reader. It shows that Addie never truly loved Anse, and married him just because of circumstance. The illegitimacy of Jewel infers that was so unhappy within her relationship that she partook in adulterous affair with Reverend Whitfield, yielding Jewel as a result. Darls ability to link key concepts within the story allows the reader to understand the text. Without Darls narration none of these secrets within the Burden family could of been revealed, as the secret of Addies affair would of buried with her body.

Darls attempt to burn the barn shows his love for Addie, as it enables the reader realize the impure motives of the Burden Familys journey to Jefferson. As the days have past, Addie has begun to rot and smell during their travels, so much so that buzzards have begun to follow her corpse. Darl wants to release his mother from the mutilation her body has endured: wrong position in the coffin, Vardaman poking holes, being plunged into the river, and rotting for days on the journey. Darls effort to burn the barn is an attempt to release Addie from the mutilation that she had incurred, and to end the journey to Jefferson. Darl sets fire to the barn because he senses the presence and desires of his mother: "She's talking to God [...] She wants Him to hide her away from the sight of man [] so she can lay down her life [] We must let her be quiet" (217). Thus Darl decides to end the futility and injustice that Addie has been subjected to, through the cremation of her body. The barn burns, but Addie is saved by Jewel. Because Darl burns down the barn the family deems him insane. This singular act of burning the barn down act is enough for the Burden family to send Darl to Jackson's insane asylum because as Cash put it: "It was either send him to Jackson, or have Gillespie [the owner of the barn] sue us." Cash realizes that what Darl attempted to do was the right thing, but still, the Bundrens must call him crazy or pay for the barn, and it is much easier to declare Darl insane. This affirms the Burdens familys greed and selfish motives. They all have different reasons to be against Darl: Anse doesnt want to pay for the Barn, Darl knows about Dewey Dells pregnancy, Jewel doesnt like him, and Darl cemented Cashs broken leg which is now deformed. This leads to their easy decision of sending Darl to the insane asylum even though they all know Darl is not insane. Darl attempts to burn down the barn because it is the right thing to do. His mother deserves a proper burial and in Darls mind her cremation will stop her suffering and finally let her be quiet. Faulkners ability to etch this underline meaning into the book through Darls character allows the reader to connect the previous key aspects in the text. It also allows them to decipher the true noble character of Darl in contrast to his family.

Darl is the prominent narrator in the stream-of-consciousness style novel that Faulkner writes in As I Lay Dying. As the novel progresses it becomes increasingly evident that Darl is the key figure to the solution of the complex interrelationships of characters, as he is able to reveal key concepts in the book to the reader. Darl's importance appears not only in his complex thought processes and his ability to perceive and sense everything, but also in the fact that most of the important action in the book is presented through his eyes. The final thought that Darl gives to the reader is his last narration is the great irony of As I Lay Dying. That Darl, the only person capable of reaching an awareness of the complexities of life, is sent to the insane asylum while the rest of the Bundrens, the ones who should be imprisoned, roam freely.

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