The Limits of Sanity and Insanity in William Faulkner’s Novel

In William Faulkner’s, As I Lay Dying, Addie died and told her family to bury her in Jefferson with the rest of her family. Of course, they listened and carried her dead body on a wagon. On their journey they encountered multiple complicated situations, which tested their limits of sanity and insanity. The second oldest son, Darl, came out as the sanest of them all. With the family’s own desires, it causes each person to become an insane person. Darl, however, cares for others and observe their actions to determine how they are doing. He was aware of his own existence and surroundings.

Anse, the father of the Bundren family, acts selfishly through his laziness and greed. For example, his family constantly does chores around the house, but he does not because “he was sick once from working in the sun the if he ever sweats, he will die”(17). His lethargy shows when he refuses to work because he will die from a drop of sweat. That is preposterous, considering he makes his children labor and make up for his part. In addition, Dewey Dell knew Darl burned down the barn and “she hadn’t said a word, hadn’t even looked at [Darl] when them fellows told him what they wanted and that they had come to get him”(237).

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Darl’s family wanted him gone because if he were taken away as an insane man, then Anse would not have to pay for the barn damages. Anse would do anything just to conserve their money and keep him out of trouble. His saved money only goes to his teeth, and would not spend a penny for anything. No one cares what may come about to another family member but what would happen to themselves. In the end, Anse and the other children’s selfishness led them to become psychotic people.

As an outsiders’ point of view, the Bundren family’s neighbors notice how Darl functions as the most normal of them all. For instance, Darl walks into Addie’s room to see how she is doing, and Cora says, “I always said Darl was different from those others. I always said he was the only one of them that had his mother’s nature, had any natural affection”(21). He cared for his mother unlike the others. Darl took time out of his day to see how his mother was coming along. So focused on their own lives-Cash, Anse, Jewel, Vardaman, and Dewey Dell-that their surroundings all become a big blur. Furthermore, as the Bundren family was on their way to cross the partially damaged bridge, and Tull notes how “[Darl] looks at [him]. It’s like he had got into the inside of you, someway. Like somehow you was looking at yourself and your doings outen his eyes”(125).

This explains that Darl has almost a sixth sense because he can read the other characters’ actions and interpret the events occurred he was not present for. Obviously, his neighbors, Cora and Tull, observe him as a sane person because he takes the time to notice the little things in life.

Using his common sense, Darl still gets nowhere. While crossing the bridge, an oncoming log hit the wagon, and Darl sees Cash “leaningback against Addie and his toolsand beyond it Jewel holding the horse upreared” Darl then jumps “from the wagon on the downstream side” (149). Them two psycho boys would rather have their most cherished items in life than be alive. Personalities can influence another person because Anse apparently rubbed off onto his children. Later he burned Armstid’s barn trying to destroy Addie and her coffin, but Jewel still ends up saving it. Then, “under the apple tree with her, lying on her” was Darl crying (225).

Darl thinks his mother is haunting him because every attempt to rid her, she has come back. He tried ending the journey to Jefferson because he knew they were not going for Addie but for themselves. Utterly defeated, Darl was sent of to an asylum, and on the train he laughs “down the long car laughing, the heads turning like the heads of owls when he passed”(253). The fact that he was laughing was not because he was insane, but laughing because he knows he was the only sane person in the family and now he is gone.

Although Darl was sent away, he was still the most reasonable. Compassionate towards others, and respecting their problems; he viewed others carefully. He took notice of his surroundings and was aware of his own existence. His family probably did not know they were alive because their lives circled around items-Cash and his tools, and Jewel and his horse. That was all the mattered. Dying for those item were not even a question. Thus concluding, Darl equals sane.

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The Limits of Sanity and Insanity in William Faulkner’s Novel. (2019, Feb 06). Retrieved from