The classic hero in As I Lay Dying is anything by classical. However, the entire novel is anything but archetypical. Therefore, it is beyond obvious that the novel’s heroes diverge in a number of ways from the defined, classic hero. Although the Bundrens ulterior motives and desires repudiate some of their credibility in regards to being a classical heroic family, their ability to cooperate with one another in the brief moments of crisis suggest they are at least partially heroic.
Each living member of the Bundrens has a different motive for wanting to travel to Jefferson. Dewey Dell wishes to rid herself of a baby, Vardaman wants a train, Anse hopes to find a new wife, and so on. These selfish desires of each family member contrast them from a typical heroic family. Their inability to help one another in a tragic event such the death of their beloved mother portrays the Bundrens as incapable of being heroic. However, the family, and Jewel in particular, eventually does fulfill their goal, and Addie’s dying wish. Even Addie Bundren, herself, foreshadows that Jewel will be the one to save her and that “He is my [her] cross and he will be my salvation. He will save me from the water and from the fire. Even though I have laid down my life, he will save me” (168). Essentially the woman’s dying wishes are fulfilled by the family who in return is at least partially heroic. However, Jewel’s sacrifices in giving up his most prized possession, his horse, and leaping into a burning farm proves that his intentions were in fact noble. Although his actions were certainly the most persistent in terms of being a classic hero, the family’s certain few moments suggest that they too are partially heroic.
Their numerous acts of selfishness and lack of an ethical sense are partially overshadowed by the few and rare moments of family cooperation. The first glimpse the reader has of a “functional Bundren family” occurs in the flashback about Jewel’s secret job. In noting that Jewel was lacking in doing his chores, Darl states that “ It was ma that got Dewey Dell to do the other jobs around the house that Jewel had being doing” (130). The family’s ability to compensate for Jewel’s lack of energy for house work proves that in times of difficulty, they can in fact be a united group. The next instance of cooperation between the Bundrens occurs in the horrific moment of Cash’s near death experience in the river. Jewel and Vernon begin searching for Cash’s tools. Meanwhile, Dewey Dell pampers the sick Cash; just as a real sister would do. Even the cold and distant Darl becomes overwhelmed with worry about Cash and his tools. When they have finally collected the majority of Cash’s vital instruments, they tell Cash to look up as they are “holding the tools up so he can see” (163). This concern for Cash and his tools once again proves that the family does in fact have the ability to be heroic at times. Furthermore, their concerns with Cash’s physical and emotional state prove that, although subtly, they do care for one another.
The Bundren family is in fact heroic. However, their ability to express their heroic behavior is strained and they rarely express this heroism. Their selfish desires and intentions partially contradict their heroic state. However, considering the shock and intensity of death, it can be argued that Jewel and the rest of his family are heroic, but due to their shock and dismay they fail to be the utmost outstanding classical heroes at that point in time.
Darl’s Superiority Essay
Darl is superior in terms of intelligence and insight. Although he, unlike Jewel, is entirely the child of Addie and Anse, his position in the family’s puzzle is questionable. His existence and mentality varies greatly from the rest of his family’s. His struggle with his apparent departure from the family’s social norms is apparent throughout the novel. Darl’s awareness and life experience place him several intellectual levels above his...
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