Experiencing Salvation in As I Lay Dying
October 31, 2011
William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying centers on the absurd journey that the Bundren family takes to Jefferson to bury their dead mother, Addie. Faulkner frames this journey through the lens of various narrators with a specific focus on the characters’ innermost thoughts and deep interior monologues. Although the novel’s plot revolves around the Bundren family, characters outside of the family are essential to provide an objective view. Without these outside characters, much of Faulkner’s commentary would be lost. One of the most important characters outside of the Bundren family is Cora Tull. It is through her character that Faulkner makes his most potent commentary on the ideas of sin, salvation, and hypocrisy. With the strong irony that is employed throughout the novel, Faulkner twists Cora’s seemingly ideal moral character and uses her instead as an example of what not to be. Through the juxtaposition of Addie and Cora, Faulkner seeks to highlight religious hypocrisy and show that Cora’s idea of religious salvation is faulty. Instead, Faulkner believes (as demonstrated through Addie) that true salvation consists of an enlightened state of self-awareness and concrete understanding of one’s own sin. Religion is echoed in every facet of Cora’s life. On the surface, she appears to be a warm-hearted Christian spirit, but it becomes quickly evident that Cora’s perception of religion is skewed. Cora is always seen serving her neighbors but Cora’s charity is not genuine. She serves not out of love, but to keep up a Christian appearance and receive a promised heavenly reward (23, 93). When Cora attempts to serve, even her husband (Vernon Tull) comments that she tries to “crowd the other folks away and get in closer than anybody else (71).”She is very concerned with the eternal state of others around her, but again, her concern is not out of love. Cora states that only God can see into the heart...
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