Honors American Literature
The novel As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner represents Jewel Bundren as a harsh and angry man, who fiercely loves one soul, Addie Bundren. It emphasizes the theme of salvation, loss, and the lack of love.
Pale, wooden, and rigid, Jewel is exceptionally divergent from the rest of his family. The fact that he is an outsider is made abundantly clear at the beginning of the novel and some covert rift separates him from the others. He is a loner, bordering on being reclusive. Jewel separates himself from his family because he strongly believes that he does not belong to them. He desires nothing more than to be a totally different species and the only substance he needs to exist is his mother’s love. This rift begins to unravel as the story progresses and the selfish desires of these individuals are revealed.” It would be just me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill at their faces, and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going one lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet (Faulkner 15).” Jewel is imagining a world where Addie and him are be isolated from the people they both desperately despise. He constantly uses the term “one lick less” as he refers to the adze shattering his fantasy. It chips away the wood bit by bit reminding him that his time left with the one possession he cherishes is coming to an end. The dominant importance in the novel is the relationship between Jewel and Darl. Constantly comparing himself to his younger brother, Darl is extremely jealous towards Jewel and resents him greatly. Addie’s love for Jewel is eternal and unconditional, but Darl is unjustly denied this intrinsic right his entire life. In section forty Addie reveals she has always strongly loathed Anse. She was nothing but a vessel her entire life and her sole purpose was to produce children. She desperately wanted to be her own person and having children only furthered her problem. This evoked her infidelity. Addie had an affair with Whitfield creating Jewel. Jewel is hers and only hers; he is not the product of her desolation but a part of herself.
Darl witnesses this his entire life and it takes a toll on his mentality. He begins to believe he is not truly existent, “I don’t know if I am or not. Jewel knows he is, because he does not know what he does not know whether he is or not.” Jewel never questions his being as he has never been deprived of Addie’s love. As Addie lies in her death bed, Darl snatches Jewel and Addie’s final moment together by taking Jewel along with him on Tull’s three dollar trip. By doing this Darl feeds on Jewels existence, therefore creating a moment of powerful actuality. Although Addie favorites Jewel he never professes his affection for her, yet Darl incessantly works to earn his mother’s love. He lashes out by continually reminding Jewel that Addie Bundren is dead. Again and again he references the irritating buzzards flying overhead, “Motionless, the tall buzzards hang in soaring circles, the clouds them an appearance of retrograde (95)”, subtly hinting that he is not a true member of the family.
Addie only wishes for Jewel to be her legacy and salvation. As fate has it Jewel is her salvation, but in an ironic unimagined way. He does not save her soul and grant her exuberance; instead he rescues her in death. The Bundrens encounter an attack on Addie’s coffin when Darl sets fire to the barn…