17 November 2009
In Chapter 24 of As I Lay Dying, Vardaman simply states “My mother is a fish.” At first, this may seem like a child’s ridiculous association of his mother’s death with the death of a fish. However, this connection allows Vardaman to overcome the highly complicated issues associated with death and existence. The abnormal disposition of this exchange characterizes Vardaman’s lack of ability to deal with the death of his mother in a reasonable way. Assets that are similar to one another become exchangeable. For example, Vardaman accredits the role of his mother to a fish, because the fish is dead like Addie.
In Chapter 13, Vardaman runs outside and begins to cry. When he sees the place on the ground where he had first laid the fish he had caught, he begins to think about how the fish is cut up into little small pieces of “not-fish” and “not-blood.” As a way of coping with his mother’s death, he begins to blame Peabody for it. As Vardaman struggles to understand that his mother is dead, he begins to beat Peabody’s horses with a stick as he blames and curses Peabody for Addie’s death.
Vardaman’s continual rants about the fish are merely his way of expressing his feelings and making sense of his mother’s death. He associates the conversion of a live fish into a dead one with the death of Addie. The concept that his own mother can vanish so suddenly is as psychologically painful, if not more, for him as it is for the other family members. Vardaman’s responses to Addie’s death are to some extent systematic, and they demonstrate that he is incapable of having a healthy emotional response to his mother’s death.
In Chapter 17, Vardaman’s brother, Darl, deals with his mother’s death by questioning his own existence. He believes that since his dead mother is now described as “was” rather than “is,” she no longer exists. He reasons in his own mind that if she does not exist, then he must not exist either. Darl’s...