As I Lay Dying Symbols/Motifs/Themes

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Coffin

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English

12th

14 Terms

1

Coffin

Symbol: The death of their mother, which is the only thing keeping the family together.

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2

Cash’s Tools

Symbol: Cash’s mental health. Being with his tools is the only thing keeping him from lashing out. Also his self-interest.

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3

Jewel’s Horse

Symbol: Jewel’s independence and the conflict between wanting to be free and his value of his family

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4

Fish

Motif: Vardaman’s innocence, grieving and his being neglected by his family.

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5

Money

Symbol: Family dysfunction and selfishness

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6

River

Symbol: Fate, poor decision-making, and Addie’s crossing into the afterlife

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7

Buzzards

Motif: Death, “bad things” (Sam), bad omens. The number changes based on if Jewel is around.

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8

Teeth

Symbol: Anse’s self-interest and the real reason why Anse wanted to go to Jefferson so much

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9

Self-Interest vs. Heroic Duty

Anse, Dewey Dell, and Addie (selfish acts as they have their own reasons for going to town) vs. Jewel, Cash, and maybe Darl (care about their mother)

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10

Morality and the Nature of Existence

They have a few morals and some have more than others. Some other members of the family mainly just exist with no apparent reason for living the way they do.

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11

Family, Birth, and Death

Their birth order represents the loss of intelligence resulting from the loss of love between parents and correlates with the family’s dysfunction, which continues to decline until Addie is buried.

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12

Religion and Faith

What Anse uses to justify his actions. None of the family members have any formal education in it. Cora uses it to highlight the dysfunction of the Bundren family.

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13

Language vs. Action

Darl talks about his feelings about the family while Jewel physically saves his family twice (rescuing the coffin from the river and the burning barn).

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14

Decline of the Old South

Decline of education throughout family members, the Bundren’s level of poverty, and the clear distinction between country and town people.

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