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Thematic Correlations between As I Lay Dying and the Old Testament
Since its original publication in 1930, the novel As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner has drawn much exploration and critique. Though this analysis is very far reaching and broad in topic, one interesting route of investigation is the novel’s connection to the Old Testament. One does not have to be a Christian to study the similarities in theme; there are very many occurrences of biblical subject matter and correlation, these having been studied by student and scholar alike. The Old Testament is known commonly as the more historical part of the Bible; it sets up the background knowledge to the New Testament and gives readers an idea of the nature of the times. Many general themes of the Old Testament are reflected in the Bible as a whole, as well as each book having its own plot and theme. Such Old Testament themes such as original sin and ideas corresponding to that of the Book of Job can be found inherently in As I Lay Dying.
The idea of original sin comes from the Book of Genesis, when the first humans, Adam and Eve, ate the fruit of the tree that they were told by God not to eat. Since these first two humans erred in their ways, God then made all humans to be in their image, an image of sin and fallibility. As taken from the Boom of Genesis: “Then the Lord God said, ‘Now these human beings have become like one of us and have knowledge of what is good and what is bad’”(Bible 5). The theme of sin relies on this fact; humans make conscious decisions to do wrong. Other themes of moral nature can follow within the main ideas brought forth in Genesis, such as guilt, sexuality, and tension between the sexes (Rule). In As I Lay Dying, the original sin of Anse and Addie seems to give way to the sin of their children, much like that of Adam’s ancestors. Although according to biblical tradition, each child is born into sin, Jewel Bundren was especially born into a sinful life. He was a product of Addie’s infidelity to Anse, an act that was on Addie’s mind until the day she died. The guilt she felt, even to the husband she had no love for, was so overwhelming that she produced both Dewey Dell and Vardaman to “negative” the sin that was Jewel’s birth. Her self-worth was then so low that she felt she was ready to die after her recompense to Anse was finished. “And now he has three children that are his and not mine. And then I could get ready to die” (Faulkner 176). Addie had strong opinions on sin, as shown in her one chapter of the novel. She recounts an instance with her neighbor Cora Tull: “She prayed for me because she believed I was blind to sin, wanting me to kneel and pray too, because people to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too” (Faulkner 176). Addie’s sin with Jewel seems to perplex other members of the family through their journey to bury her; Darl’s inability to mentally communicate with Jewel leads him to question Jewel’s origin. Darl also seemed to put his views into the mind of Vardaman, though the poor neglected child was confused enough. Addie and Anse’s relationship, as explained in Addie’s narrative, has an obvious lack of intimacy, closeness, and meaningfulness. This can be seen as a sin inherited by their daughter, Dewey Dell. Her sexual curiosity and naïveté lead her to an unwanted pregnancy with a father, Lafe, who does not care about her. Throughout the story, she is in deep worry for herself and gives the impression of almost forgetting about her own mother’s death. Like Eve and Addie, she bears a share of responsibility for her great sin, and will then live in sin with her child. This theme presented in Genesis proves true even in this fictitious story of an unfortunate family as they pass sin through the generations.
The Old Testament’s Book of Job has some close correlations of As I Lay Dying. The Book of Job tells the story of Job, a man who suffers total disaster- loss of children, loss of pr
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