A Shape to Fill the Lack: as I Lay Dying, by Willian Faulkner

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One of Faulkner's central themes in the novel is the limitation of language. From the inability of the characters to communicate with one another, to Addie's singular distrust of words, to the unlikely vocabulary the characters employ in their narration, Faulkner explores the inadequacy of language to express thought and emotion. Many characters communicate only through platitudes. As a result, they create misunderstanding rather than understanding between people. Through the varying perspectives that Faulkner chooses to employ, the reader witnesses both the events that take place and the character's individual perceptions of them. Indeed, at times the reader can only discern events by comparing information from various narrators. The reader learns about the assumptions and peculiarities of the different narrators, and precisely how each character differs in mindset from the others. Unsure which character’s perspective to adopt regarding events, the reader is inclined to concentrate less on events than on the images, words, the psychological processes that circulate in the characters’ minds, and the discrepancies between the various views. Faulkner’s usage of various narrators who speak in stream of consciousness allow him to highlight the tension between the thoughts of the narrating family members through their inability to use language to adequately express them and underscore the disconnect between them. Faulkner calls attention to the tenuousness of language, and how words are ineffective in conveying the true inner feelings of the characters, perversely enough, in a novel composed of nothing but words. Faulkner reveals the limitations of language by contrasting the thoughts of his characters with their actual words, and their constant groping for meaning and adequate expression. Addie Bundren is the one character who openly acknowledges the issue that all the characters face, and she is the only who to reject language: “(W)ords are no good… words dont ever...
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