I just love the way Faulkner uses his words. They give me the feeling of rolling down a hill and back up again, only to know you’re going to roll down again, quickly. The momentum of his prose is faster than the movements of his characters – setting tension, pity (in their cases), and interest in their next moments.
As I read this story, set in depression-era South, I could not help but think of the painstaking trouble the Bunchen family took to get Addie to her final resting place, and how Anse for the life of me couldn’t do anything, it seemed, to give her peace in life. He frustrated me to no end with his continuous, loathing moments of self-pity. However, he had me boggle-eyed at the end of the tale, and I was even left to figure that the family’s lot and outlook may have eventually improved because of him.
At the opposite end of Anse’s spectrum was Cash, who seemed to be the one who had the potential to get away and make a better life for himself, but didn’t. They slowed him down. Then there was Jewel, who fought within himself and against everything around him, to no avail, to be something outside of the family. Darl, who seemed to be the sensible one, was the one who surprisingly lost it. Hell, what they were up against was maddening. Dewey Dell had gotten herself in a fix; we were led to guess what happened to her after the story. Vardaman provided the level of symbolism that weaved the images of his mother to the situation that surrounded them in ways that only a child could do and Faulkner pulled it off beautifully. The editor’s text reveals that Faulkner did very little work to the first draft of this work. Just as well, since the stream-of-consciousness technique, his typical writing process, guided the characters and I could really feel their personalities and I learned who they were. I believe that had he made changes to much of it, the atmosphere that drove the story would have perhaps altered it a great deal.
This tragic piece gripped me from the beginning. Told from the eyes of every family member, neighbors, and even Addie, Faulkner revealed a sad, determined, maternal-loving family at a mental war with their father’s wishes, nature, and at times the emotions of one frustrated brother. Each had their own troubles, shared in their individual chapters, which came together in a powerful tale.
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