In a novel, As I Lay Dying, the writer might use different kinds of characters to represent some themes and futures in the plot (Faulkner). Depending on the creativity of the writer, it is possible to create a picture in the readers' head on how either good, evil, selfish, and hardworking character is by giving him or her different futures and characteristics. It is, therefore, the entire encapsulation of all the characters and their prospects, endeavors, and engagements that make up the whole plot of a novel and gives the author an ability to create a visual representation of the storyline and the characters (Cleanth 140).
Looking at the plot of As I Lay Dying, the author uses a different style of writing as he introduces the characters to his readers by giving each character a section in the novel and through the chapters, there is an internal personal conversation within each of them, thus giving the readers a chance to identify different characters in the story. In the story, the writer introduces a family of Bundren at the most trying moments as the mother of the family, Addie Bundren, the wife to Anse Bundren, is seriously ill and her chances of surviving the illness are very low.
At the beginning of the novel, the reader is introduced to several characters as well who are the children of Addie. There is Cash who is the eldest, Darl, Jewel, Dewey and Vardaman. All of these characters portray different features, especially towards the death of their mother and through the journey to their mothers' burial, thus giving the reader a chance to know who is who in the novel (Cleanth 93). The main aim of this study, however, is to take a deeper focus on Jewel Bundren, revealing all his characteristics and endeavors throughout the novel by looking at how he changed his entire way of living after his mother's death and developed relationships with his other siblings.
Jewel Bundren's Concerns at the Beginning of the Novel
From the introduction of the characters in the novel, the reader can realize that Jewel is the only son whose father is not Anse Bundren among all the other siblings. Jewel, therefore, is very close to his mother more than any other person. However, Bundren takes it hard on himself that he does not want to express this even after it is clear to him that he is his mother's favorite among all the siblings. Their initial relationship with the mother, therefore, can be described as one-sided as his mother was the only one showing the love that Jewel kept on ignoring. The reader, however, can notice that Jewel is very concerned about his mother, and he loves her so much since she is the only person he had close contact with. There are very few sections where the writer brings up Jewel speaking to his siblings in the novel. He is described as "wood" meaning that he is not that interactive and penetrative, but he talks a lot through his actions (Faulkner 110). The writer through this is, therefore, able to know what concerns Jewel when the novel is beginning, and how the character feels about a lot of things as well as his siblings when the story commences.
The writer, Faulkner, begins by telling the reader that Jewel and his brother Darl are preparing for a journey out of town to make a secure delivery for their neighbor, Tull, whose wife has been providing clinical support to Addie when she was sick. When leaving, the author tells us that Jewel does not show concern on his face, but internally he is disturbed. Jewel feels that by making her a coffin, it is clear that the Bundrens' are sure that their mother will not make it. Alongside this, the main concern for Jewel Bundren is that Cash Bundren, the firstborn, is making this coffin directly opposite to Addie's bedroom window where she can see it (Olga 51). Even though Cash offered to do this as a sign of love to her mother, both Jewel and also the readers view this to be sarcastic since it implies that Addie is already dead to them and there is no more hope that she can get well again.
Jewel is concerned with his mother's privacy as well when the novel begins. The author reveals to the reader that even though Jewel is very poor at expressing his love to his mother in his small deeds and character, it is clear that most of the things he does show how much he adores her. Jewel does not want anyone to intrude his mother's privacy and thus stands on a hilltop where he can view anyone who tries to distort this kind of intimacy. "It would just be her and me on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill at their faces, picking them up and throwing them down the hill, faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going one lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet." (Faulkner 122). He has stones that he plans to throw at anyone who goes against his wishes of ensuring that his mother's privacy is not intruded by anyone (Cleanth 136). Following the love that Jewel has for his mother, the writer tries to tell the readers how he expresses it and all the concerns in a very violent manner. The writer portrays his characters through what other people think of him.
Jewel Bundren loves his horse in a manner that no one understands. He expresses his love in a violent way as described by the author. At the beginning of the novel, the readers are told that Jewel works hard and acquires a horse for his own. The primary concern then becomes the hay that his horse will be fed on as he did not want the horse to feed on Anse Bundren's hey. It was his character to reveal to other people including his siblings and his mother that he is independent. This was his concern as he was the only one who is not a family member of Anse Bundren through blood. In the novel, the readers are told that Jewel was born as a result of an affair between his mother and Minister Whitfield (Cleanth 94).
Jewel's Initial Reaction to his Mother's Death
As described by Darl as "wooden and solid," Jewel appears in the entire novel to be a person who does not speak much but expresses his feelings through what he does in actions. When leaving with Darl, taking a trip to the other town, Jewel refused to say goodbye to his mother even though the writer tells the audience that he was concerned about the fact that Cash was making his mother's coffin in front of his mother's wind (Olga 60). After they went and came back, they realize that there is a commotion in their home and he understands that his mother is dead. It is Darl who says to Jewel that his horse is not dead as they return from the trip looking like "tall soldiers stepping through the windows of the cotton house" (Faulkner 115) as the writer describes them.
Jewel, regardless of him realizing that his mother is dead, assumes this fact and goes ahead into the pasture whistling for his horse against Anse's wish of the entire family riding in the Wagon. Even though he appears unconcerned with his mother's death, he expresses his feelings to the horse in the pasture. Looking at this entire scenario, it is true that Jewel is in denial and trying to avoid the truth that his mother is dead. By fighting the horse in the pastures, Jewel can release all his stress and everything that is bothering him. He shows his concern through this reaction as well since he tries to act unconcerned about his mother's death just as Darl describes him (Cleanth 92).
Darl had to make it clear that "Jewel's hat droops limply about his neck...Jewel, I say, she is dead, Jewel. Addie Bundren is dead." (Faulkner 12) Denial is a typical reaction that is portrayed most so by men whenever they are confronted with any form of grief. It is thus apparent that Jewel is in denial about his mother's death and his reaction to this is to spend time with his horse and act and assume that everything is fine and nothing significant has happened. Jewel further feels bitter and reacts very harshly against Cash resenting him for building the mother's coffin roughly. Looking at this reaction, it is clear that Jewel is responding to various people depending on his feelings following his mother's death. Therefore, in summary, Jewel is both bitter and in denial as he acts like nothing has happened and instead spends much time with his horse (Swigart 114).
The reader comes across various reactions as he or she reads the novel along the journey about Jewel Bundren. It is clear that Jewel changes based on his dynamic character. From the beginning of the trip, Jewel refuses to journey with the other family members inside the Wagon. Anse Bundren feels that this is not in order as Addie could have wanted all of them to travel together in the Wagon. "I told him not to bring that horse out of respect for his dead ma, because it wouldn't look right, him prancing along on a Durn circus animal and her wanting us all to be in the wagon" (Faulkner 105). It is at this point that Jewel shows a sign of rejection by his siblings and feels that they do not have a relationship. Addie was the notch that was linking him with his other siblings, and she is no longer there. At Tull's, where Jewel together with the family spends the night together, Jewel offers to pay Samson some money which will cater for what his horse has eaten the following morning. This is a change of character from being bitter and cynical towards people to being confident and considerate. He feels that it is only fair if he pays Samson what they have coasted him by spending the night at his place. An ultimate transformation is revealed when Jewel was not bothered with the fact that his horse was traded off by Anse. He, however, gets mad and rides away due to anger and rage that he has towards Anse. He does not catch up with the family when he comes back, and therefore, goes after them and they later meet at Mattson (Vickery 89). He, however, gets annoyed again by Darl when he asks him where his father is. He, yet, manages to control his anger. It is, therefore, right that indeed there is a change as they proceed with the journey to Jefferson.
During that night, the family decides to spend the night at a local firm that they randomly came across owned by Gillespie. Darl has been very skeptical and unhappy with the entire journey and mission to take Addie to Jefferson. He, therefore, tries to burn the whole coffin with Addie inside. This leads to a massive fire which starts to burn down the place. It is at this juncture that the writer gives Jewel a heroic character by saving the coffin and the animals as well from burning. "This time Jewel is riding upon [the coffin], clinging to it, until it crashes down and flings him forward and clear" (Faulkner 50) He risks his life to ensure that his mother does not burn down at this point, and therefore saves her. Jewel becomes a hero of the story and changes from a lonely boy who liked being isolated to a hero who saves the day. All the above explanations thus evidently reveal that throughout the entire journey, Jewel has transformed his behavior and attitude, including his feeling towards the horse. Unlike Anse, who besides committing to his wife's promise of ensuring that she is buried in Jefferson, Jewel had no other ulterior motives to go to Jefferson as the only thing that took him there was to bury his mother (Swigart 122).
Jewel's Relationship with Addie from Addie's Narrative
It is clear that from the narration, Addie adored Jewel as she felt that he is her only son while she viewed the others as Anse's children. This, therefore, makes the audience learn a lot about the relationship between the two as healthy, even though Jewel tends to ignore his mother's love. On the other hand, it is also clear that to Jewel, the only thing he had linking him with the other Bundrens was his mother. It is also discussed earlier in several instances where Jewel showed love for his mother indirectly (Cleanth 90)....
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