The Importance of Animals in William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying"

Essay by canadaforever28High School, 10th grade June 2006

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In William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying", there are numerous references to animals. When the Bundren family loses their mother, each child has a different animal that they relate to so they can deal with their situation. The characters compare themselves to animals, in the case of Dewey Dell, or they compare their dead mother to animals, which can be seen in the case of Jewel and Vardaman. Animals are a key part of the novel because they serve as something that the main characters can relate to so they can deal with the death of their mother, but also, Faulkner uses the animals to make his characters stronger by giving them more depth.

The most obvious reference to animals in the novel is Vardaman dealing with his mother's death by comparing her to a fish. After Addie's death, Vardaman runs away, not able to fully comprehend what has happened with his mother.

He finds a fish in the dust and says, "It is cut up into pieces of not-fish now, not-blood on my hands and overalls...If I jump off the porch I will be where the fish was, and it all cut up into not-fish now" (53). He later says, "My mother is a fish" (84). At first Vardaman is not able to understand what has happened to his mother. He then compares her to a fish that also went through a similar change. After understanding that the fish is now "not-fish," Vardaman is able to further understand his mother's death because now, like the fish, she is not in the same state that she used to be in. The animal helps Vardaman realize that his mother and the fish are both in the same state, the state of death. This is also valuable for the character development...