February 18, 2013
Duty is a Four Letter Word with a Three Character Meaning
In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the Bundrens sacrifice a great deal to lay Addie in her final resting place at Jefferson. They obediently follow her burial orders despite the hardships along the way because of the moral obligation they have to their mother and wife. These ignorant people may not have had the task of taking their father’s place in the Chinese army and fending off the Huns to defend the emperor, they just had to get to one place with a coffin. However, the size of the sacrifice does not matter because duty is duty. Helen Keller once said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.” This quote emphasizes the theme of duty in As I Lay Dying because even though the endeavor of taking their deceased family member to her home town was not an enormous achievement for the sake of mankind, it still significantly mattered to the Bundrens. Duty is considerably expressed by the characters Dewey Dell, Darl and Jewel.
Dewey Dell makes a striking introduction into the minds of the reader when questions arise like “Why does she keep talking about cakes?” to “Is this character a woman?” Faulkner first epitomizes Dewey Dell as the annoying girl who sat fanning her mother for days, not letting Addie get a break or the others a proper chance to say goodbye to their mother or wife. She slowly transforms into a more mature and astute character when Addie dies and she is forced right away to perform her duties as the woman of the house. Faulkner writes, “Pa looks down at the face, at the black sprawl of Dewey Dell’s hair, the out-flung arms, the clutched fan now motionless on the fading quilt. “I reckon you better get supper on,” he says. Dewey Dell does not move.” But she does move. She gets up and makes supper and the audience also sees a motherly role thrust upon Dewey Dell in two...
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