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As I Lay Dying Quotations and Analysis


That’s what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, . . . carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again.

At the end of Section 11, these are the thoughts that Peabody has about the soon to pass, Addie. An experienced doctor, he comes upon Addie’s current situation with an objective and hard-nosed realism. Peabody comments on Addie’s known love for her favorite child, Jewel, who has refused to say good bye to his ailing mother before setting out on a trip, despite knowing that it is very unlikely that she will be alive when he returns.

In the doctor’s mind, Addie’s love for Jewel is unrequited and her will to continue to love him is a sign of her stubbornness and pride.

Jewel’s mother is a horse,” Darl said.
“Then mine can be a fish, can’t it, Darl?” I said.
. . .
“Then what is your ma, Darl?” I said.
“I haven’t got ere one,” Darl said. “Because if I had one, it is was. And if it was, it cant be is. Can it?”

The equation that Vardaman has between the death of his mother and the death of the fish, in Section 24, is initially viewed as childish and illogical. However, the association, along with Darl’s linking of the question of existence to a matter of ‘was’ vs. ‘is’ allows these two uneducated characters to come to terms with highly complex matters of death and existence.

The strange nature of this exchange demonstrates the Bundren family’s inability to approach the death of their matriarch with in a rational manner.

For Darl, language has a strong control over his mother’s existence: he believes that she cannot be an ‘is’ or a thing that continues to live, because she is a ‘was’ or a thing that is no more.

[W]ords dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at. . . . [M]otherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not.

Taken from Section 40, the only section narrated by Addie Bundren. Here, Addie describes her realization that life is miserably and never really delivers what it promises.

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