14 June 2006

"is" and "was"

Just some simple last thoughts on As I Lay Dying that I've dusted off for this little lit corner...

Darl seems to be closer to his mother in ideology than any of the others, although he is the one she has rejected. In his mind, because she does not live, she does not exist, and so her body should not exist either (thus his attempts to destroy her corpse). Darl follows his mother’s example in his use of anti-language and the questioning of being:
In a strange room you must empty yourself for sleep. And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you. And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not. And when you are filled with sleep, you never were. I dont know what I am. I dont know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know that he does not know whether he is or not. He cannot empty himself for sleep because he is not what he is and he is what he is not. [...] And since sleep is is-not and rain and wind are was, it is not. Yet the wagon is, because when the wagon is was, Addie Bundren will not be. And Jewel is, so Addie Bundren must be.
This bears a sharp contrast to Jewel, who has transferred his fierce love for his mother to his horse, maintaining being (and the existence of his love) at any cost. But as Darl plainly states, "I cannot love my mother because I have no mother." This idea also causes Vardaman to observe:
“Jewel’s mother is a horse,” Darl said.

“Then mine can be a fish, cant it, Darl?” I said.

Jewel is my brother.

“Then mine will have to be a horse, too,” I said.

“Why?” Darl said. “If pa is your pa, why does your ma have to be a horse just because Jewel’s is?”

“Why does it?” I said. “Why does it, Darl?”

Darl is my brother.

“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 is was, it cant be is. Can it?”
Vardaman then says, “But you are, Darl,” and Darl responds, “I know it [...] That’s why I am not is. Are is too many for one woman to foal.” Interestingly, he accepts his brother's idea of her being a horse, but cannot accept being her son or the validity of his own existence (the negation they share).

I also just have to say how much I love Vardaman.

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