Indirect Characterization In As I Lay Dying

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William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is renowned for its manipulation of and commentary on language in the role of human psychology. As readers receive information on the Bundren family from the novel’s numerous narrators, their sanity and reliability increasingly come into question. Because the narrators of the story are active characters themselves, Faulkner uses indirect characterization to construct their personalities from multiple, subjective viewpoints. This indirect characterization comes through in the ways the characters speak, act, and think.
Speech and the use of language is itself a major theme in As I Lay Dying. Because of this, readers learn a lot about a character by the ways he or she speaks and who he or she speaks to. Jewel,
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Anse Bundren, the patriarch of the story, is shown to be both extremely selfish and unusually lazy. The entire journey that the Bundren group takes is arguably not about burying Addie, but about going to buy Anse a new set of false teeth. On top of this, he apparently has a condition to where he is unable to sweat, keeping him from working (Faulkner 17). It is very questionable as to whether Anse is making up excuses in order to avoid manual labor or if he is actually physically impaired. Either way, these character traits lead to the twist ending of the book. Towards the end of the novel, Cash narrates, “...we see it wasn’t the grip that made him look different...‘He got them teeth.’” (Faulkner 260). Not even a full day after he buries his dead wife, Anse finds a new spouse and uses the family’s remaining money to buy his teeth (260-261). Terrell Tebbetts explains, “...only he ever truly loved their mother, but he marries again just as soon as he dumps her...” (2). This ending truly shows the selfish nature that embodies Anse Bundren. Readers see throughout As I Lay Dying that characters’ actions reveal much about their personalities and

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