As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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Paragraph V: Evaluation

But my mother is a fish. Vernon seen it. He was there.
“Jewel’s mother is a horse,” Darl said.
“Then mine can be a fish, can’t 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 can’t be is. Can it?”
“No,” I said.
“Then I am not,” Darl said. “Am I?”
“No,” I said.
I am. Darl is my brother.
“But you are, Darl,” I said.
“I know it,” Darl said. “That’s why I am not is. Are is too many for one woman to foal.” ( Faulker 101)

The novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner, had many interesting paragraphs that catches the readers eye. However, the above paragraph between Vardaman and Darl debating the matters of death and existence stops the reader and demands attention. The above paragraph is a narrative paragraph. Vardaman’s association of his mother’s death with the fish’s death at first seems to be a childish, illogical connection. This association, along with Darl’s linking of the question of existence to a matter of “was” versus “is,” allows these two uneducated characters to tackle the highly complex matters of death and existence. The bizarre nature of this exchange illustrates the Bundrens’ inability to deal with Addie’s death in a more rational way. For Darl, language has a peculiar control over Addie’s existence: he believes that she cannot be an “is,” or a thing that continues to exist, because she is a “was,” or a thing that no longer exists. For Vardaman, objects that are similar to each other become interchangeable: he assigns the role of his mother to the fish, for example, because the fish is dead, like Addie. These somewhat logical responses to Addie’s death demonstrate...
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