Abort the Matriarchy?: Failed Mothers of the Patriarchal Systems within Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying and Morrison’s Paradise College

Abortion is often a taboo subject that does not appear in American Literature. Yet, Toni Morrison and William Faulkner use abortion in their works to critique women’s agency in motherhood in a patriarchal system. William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying takes away the power of the matriarchy by denying the impregnated Dewey Dell agency over her current state. While Toni Morrison does not completely disarm the matriarchy in Paradise as Faulkner does, she proves through characters, such as Arnette, that abortion becomes a bargaining tool in an assertive patriarchal system that no longer serves as the protector of women but the abuser. Through the use of their maternal characters and abortion, Faulkner and Morrison condemn the matriarchy, the power of motherhood, and women’s agency over their own bodies in patriarchal systems.

In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, Addie Bundren is a woman frustrated with her sexuality and forced into maternity by her patriarchal counterpart. Addie says that she did not even want the children but, “when [she] knew that [she] had Cash, [she] knew that living was terrible and that this was the answer to it” (Faulkner 171). The children become a “violation of her aloneness”, a curse put upon her by Anse. The...

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