Essay on As I Lay Dying: Freudian Theories of the Bundren Family

1479 Words Dec 16th, 2012 6 Pages
William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying in 1930, around the time when the theories of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, were gaining popularity. In his story about the death of a mother, Addie, and her family’s reaction and grieving process, Faulkner adheres to many of Freud’s theories on defense mechanisms. According to Freud, “Challenges from the outer environment and from our inner urges threaten us with anxiety… The process that the ego (subconscious mind) uses to distort reality to protect itself are called defense mechanisms” (Friedman 39). The family’s lack of a mourning process, obsession over burying Addie in Jefferson, and desire to acquire materialistic items all exemplify Freud’s defense mechanisms. Faulkner …show more content…
He even reveals “now I can get them teeth. That will be a comfort” as a defense mechanism toward coping with the loss Addie. Anse is using Addie’s death as an excuse to go to Jefferson and get new teeth. Rather than mourn Addie’s death and bury her at her home, the Bundrens internally struggle with the loss of their mother and focus their attention on getting her to Jefferson so they can visit Jefferson themselves. In Addie’s final dying days her son Cash spent his time building her coffin right outside her window. According to Freudian concepts Cash was displacing his emotions about his mother dying. Displacement is “a defense mechanism in which the target of one’s unconscious fears or desires is shifted away from the true cause” (Friedman 47). In this case Cash’s unconscious fears are of his mothers illness and approaching death and he is shifting his focus towards building her coffin instead of spending time with her or comforting her. Cash’s obsession with building the coffin continues even after Addie dies. Cash’s first chapter of the novel meticulously lists his reasoning over the construction of the coffin. He explains “the animal magnetism of a dead body makes the stress come slanting, so the seams and joints of a coffin are made on the bevel.” While the construction of the coffin may be an important contribution to Addie’s burial, Cash completely consumes himself with thoughts of the coffin rather

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