Family and Communication in "As I Lay Dying"

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The concept of family usually suggests the notions of love and communication. If that were universally true, then the entirely opposite of this would be the clichéd entity of the dysfunctional family. But William Faulkner's novel "As I Lay Dying" introduces us to an uncommon dysfunctional family, the Bundrens, and their story is told in a very exceptional manner. A wide range of Faulkner's novels are set in the U.S. South, most definitely because he was raised in that region. For that purpose, he created a fictional setting for several of his novels, the Yoknapatawpha County, including this one, where it is depicted as an actively hostile environment, with floods and heat. "As I Lay Dying" chronicles the death of Addie Bundren, the family matriarch, and the subsequent journey to bury her corpse in her family's cemetery several miles away. As the story progresses, we encounter a series of events that range from darkly comic to completely unsettling, with the use of diction and irony.

This book doesn't have a defined point-of-view. Each chapter features narration from one of the various characters in the book, including Addie herself. The narrators consist of family members, friends, acquaintances, and some onlookers. Each narrator provides a different perspective on individuals and events. This element of the novel is perhaps the most important one since it makes the book unique and at the same time it makes it dynamic, since we learn about the background of the members of the family and about their experiences from a different perspective in each chapter. Indeed, at times the reader can only discern events by comparing information from various narrators. It also emphasizes a major theme in the novel: every character is essentially isolated from the others. Moreover, the characters in the novel do not communicate effectively with one another. Adding to this, when they do communicate, they only do it through banal statements; we never witness any external...
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