As I Lay Dying

The Continuity of Life and Death in As I Lay Dying College

We typically think of death as a fixed state of being rather than as a continuum. Either a person is dead or alive; there is nothing in between. However, death may not be so clearly defined, particularly in literature. In his novel, As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner presents death as a process and more of a mental state than a medical one. Two characters capture this view of death. The first is the physician Peabody, who, despite being a medical professional, places emphasis on the mental effects of death. The second is Addie Bundren. Her voice appears in the novel after she has technically died, and she also claims that death is a mental and emotional state. Through these characters, Faulkner gives precedence to death as a mental state to make a case for the continuity between the living and the dead. This may be an unsettling notion, but it actually provides some hope despite the tragic circumstances in the novel. Accepting the continuity of death changes our interpretation of Addie herself and the other characters in the work; for Addie is not the only dead person in the novel. And it also means that no character, dead or alive, is ever fully lost.

Peabody is the first character who blurs the line between life and death. He...

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