As I Lay Dying: A Synapsis Of Darl Essay, Research Paper
How can we judge the insane? Does insanity stem from our genes or does it grow inside someone, overrunning their rational mind, infesting them like a parasite? In William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, he explores the realms of insanity with the character Darl, who at times seems perfectly normal but at other instances in the novel he just wants to “ravel out into time.” The true nature of Darl remains a mystery throughout the novel, for Faulkner does not say whether he really has a corrupted mind or whether his disturbed actions occur because of his hatred toward his family and mother. The evidence in the book does not stack up more on either side of the argument, and this forces the reader to make his own judgment on Darl’s mental stability. However, if Darl does become insane at the end of the novel, a number of factors contribute to it, including his clairvoyance, the lack of love Addie gives him, and the long, ridiculous trip to Jefferson.
Clairvoyancy plays an important role in the story for Darl. He can read minds and tell what people are thinking, and he uses this gift not only on Dewy Dell, but on Addie as well. Anse, by taking Addie’s dead body to Jefferson, keeps his promise to her, but the troubles he faces makes Anse feel like a failure, because “(he) done (his) best,” Anse says, and “(tries) to do as (Addie) would wish it,” but “Darl setting on the plank seat above him where he was laying (is) laughing.” Although Faulkner does not explain why Darl laughs at Anse, the reason for his laughter comes from his mind reading – in particular the reading of Addie’s mind. He knows that Addie tells Anse to bury her in Jefferson out of revenge, and he realizes the absurdity of the trip. The fact that Anse tries so hard to carry out his promise, the one noble act he ever does for Addie, makes Darl laugh, because he knows that Addie would not care if she were buried in the Brunden’s backyard. Laughter about what appears to be nothing may seem crazy, but Darl laughs for a reason, a reason which a nonclairvoyant person would not understand, and this makes him look insane. This poses another important question; does Darl’s crazy actions come from his thought reading? Could his actions be normal for someone who knows as much as he does?
Nevertheless, Darl has problems that can not only result from clairvoyancy. The fact that his mother disowns him the moment she gives birth to him leaves Darl feeling isolated his whole life. To live alone without the love of your mother can pay a toll on someone psychologically. In Darl’s case this isolation can drive a man insane, but Darl, a 35-year-old man when the journey started, only lost control at the end of the novel. This shows that the isolation did not have a drastic enough effect on him to make him crazy. There must have been other forces that cause his breakdown at the end. After Addie’s funeral Darl “laughs at the bars, the dusty path, the buzzards that scan the carcass filled earth.” The mental breakdown of Darl seems to show that he has truly gone insane, but after witnessing the pathetic, selfish acts of a family that does not care for him, he cannot take the torture any longer.
Whether Darl truly went insane, whether he lost total control of himself, whether he lost touch with reality, is still debatable. When Jewel wants to fight the people in Jefferson for commenting on the awful smell of Addie’s dead body, Darl shows rational thinking by calming Jewel down and thwarting the fight that could have took place. Also when Addie “(tells) (Darl) that she (needs) to go away and find her salvation,” he pretends to hear her say that so he can justify his burning of Addie’s coffin, and bringing closure to the journey. This shows that Darl has a reasonable mind, because he wants to end the trip to Jefferson, a trip that lasts too long. Through his elevated language we know that Darl’s intelligent. However, a smart man can still act insane.
The isolation, the mind reading, and the journey all trouble Darl, but do they trouble him to the point where he becomes insane? Perhaps this question has no right answer, but the truth is that Darl does behave much different then any of the other Brunden’s, who remain “(endue) with life from the hips down.” Darl’s motives may seem strange, but they may only be the motives of an angry man, a man who’s mother never loves him, a man who knows too much. However, an angry man is not necessarily the same as an insane man.
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