As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary
This section establishes the fish as Vardamanís animal attribute. For Vardaman, the fish represents Addie. Kateís suggestion that Anse may have a new wife before harvest foreshadows the end of the novel.
Anse is looking down the road after Jewel and Darl have left. This leads him to ruminate on his philosophy of humankind. Anse states that God made roads and other horizontally directed things for moving. He adds that people are vertical and thus were made to stay in one place. Had humans been meant to move around, they would have been made like snakes. Anse supports his argument by citing Cash who goes to work on a church only to fall off of its roof.
Anse and Addie then have a brief conversation. Addie says she is fine and Anse agrees, except that he thinks she is too much like the road. Dr. Peabody then arrives without being called and sends Anse out to the porch where he considers how he has tried to make enough to get new teeth so he can enjoy food again only to lose it to the road. Anse does not curse his luck because he has peace in his heart, but he not a religious man either.
Vardaman appears covered in the blood of the fish, which he apparently chopped up with an ax. Anse tells him to wash up, and Vardaman replies by saying, "It was full of blood and guts as a hog . . . is ma sick some more?"
This section represents Anseís philosophy: people, because they are upright, are like trees meant to be stationary. The road is bad because it encourages people to move: because Cash works in town on the church instead of at home, he falls off and gets injured; because Addie needs to be buried in Jefferson, which is a hard dayís drive away, the family needs to sell the lumber and Anse will likely not get new teeth. Given Anseís deeply held beliefs about roads, we can clearly see that he must care about Addie because he agrees to her wish to be buried in Jefferson.
Vardamanís appearance at the end of the section reveals his simplicity. He does not know how to clean a fish so he cuts it up with an ax, making a huge mess. His statement that the fish was full of blood an guts like a hog suggests that he did not know what to expect. Similarly, the question about his motherís health also suggests that he does not realize what that she is dying. Vardaman is beginning his association of this mother with the fish. The cutting of the fish also foreshadows Vardamanís cutting of the coffin and his mother in it.
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. 09 May 2017