As I Lay Dying

Semantics and Modes of Communication in As I Lay Dying

At the crux of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is the issue of communication. The characters' methods of communicating are many and vary, in some cases, depending upon the characters' relationships with one another. Verbal communication is curt and generally without special significance; the very value of words – the vehicle by which verbal communication moves – is called into question both explicitly and through Faulkner's nuanced semantic games. As a counterpoint to the potentially problematic mode of verbal communication, more esoteric and pure forms are postulated: Darl and Dewey Dell are able to communicate notions and facts without words in something akin to telepathy; looks reveal undiluted emotional truth, and characters are occasionally able, through gaze alone, to see very profoundly into those who surround them. The question becomes: How does the novel ultimately reconcile these differing modes of communication and what light does this reconciliation shed on words and communication at large, in the world?

Conversation is infrequently used to express anything of substance in As I Lay Dying, rather it is relegated to the realm of the banal and practical. When the local men convene on the Bundrens' porch...

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