Essay title: Thematic Correlations Between as I Lay Dying and the Old Testament
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 property, and the affliction of a repulsive disease (Bible 593). Before God appears to Job, the story tells how Job’s friends and he himself react to the situation. His friends think of Job’s suffering in religious terms, that his afflictions must be punishments from God for sins. Though this is unlikely since Job is a righteous man, the accusations and beliefs of the friends of Job bear resemblance to the accusations bore by the friends of the Bundrens, especially Cora Tull. Each of her judgments on the members of the Bundren family is infused with her sense of Christian morality, however hypocritical she may seem. She blames the tipping of the Bundren’s wagon on her belief of a God of retribution, when Vernon tells her of what happened down at the river: “‘Log, fiddlesticks… It was the hand of God’” (Faulkner 153).
Cora also speaks a rare and unknowing morsel of truth and sense when she alerts.