As I Lay Dying - Objectivity/Subjectivity

"Through the use of many characters monologues the narrative point of view presents an objective view of what really happened."


This statement is not adequate in connection with William Faulkner?s novel, As I Lay Dying. Though many points of view are expressed through the use of interior monologue, even when compiled, they cannot serve as an "objective" view of what really happened.

There are many monologues by many different people, often with opposing ideas and beliefs. Together the novel is a collection of half-truths, with each set of events shaped by what the current narrator believes is truth. To each individual what they say and think, they consider reality, however it is merely their perception of reality and consequently it is subjective. An instance of how an objective view cannot be formed from the collection of monologues is when Dewey Dell encounters Vardaman in the milking shed. " "You durn little sneak!" My hands shake him hard? "I ain?t doing nothing"". In these two monologues both characters were so concerned with themselves and their innocence of any wrong doing that the actual order of events is lost inside their minds. Dewey Dell thought Vardaman to be spying on her, while Vardaman though Dewey Dell was going to "tell him off" for lashing out at Peabody?s team, both characters fused past events with the present and so no objective view could be formed. The reader cannot gain an objective idea of what really happened during that period of time. Another example of the actual incident and people of diametrically opposing views coming into conflict with the "reality" of what was happening was with Cora and Darl. "He did not answer. He just stood and looked at his dying mother, his heart too full for words." This is how Cora views Darl, as a kind and loving son, the private favourite and love of Addie. Darl however, appears to be indifferent to his mother and the three dollar load. Everyone else knows that Jewel is, in fact, the favourite child; this makes the characters unreliable in relaying the actual events to the reader. Each monologue is "clouded" with the viewpoints and ideas of the character narrating it, thus it is impossible to have an objective account of what really happened.

Language is another very important factor in understanding that an objective description of the actual events is impossible to attain. Language, as stated in the novel, is unreliable, words have in-built connotations and meanings and may portray something that they do not mean. "But then I realised I had been tricked by words, older than Anse or love, and that the same word had tricked Anse too." This quote taken from Addie?s monologue reveals the untrustworthiness of language and words. Originally she believed that the word love meant something but when she became pregnant with Darl she learned that love didn?t mean what the word meant and could in fact be very deceiving. "I knew that that word [love] was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack." To Addie words lacks the power say what they mean and to give any other human being the experience. Words like love, pride, fear and motherhood, she believes were all made by people who had not experienced those things before. The space and emotions and ideas which language cannot fill leaves room for different interpretations, thus through languages lack, an objective view is unachievable.

Throughout the novel, each character has not only brought their own viewpoints, they have also brought their own past experiences, accounts of the present and dreams of the future. In their interior monologues, more so when they slip into stream-of-consciousness, they meld the past, present and future and consequently view the occurrences through the "coloured glass" of their mind. Everything they say, think and do is "corrupted" by their underlying belief system and previous experiences, making it unfathomable that an objective account of events could be drawn from this compilation of monologues. Vardaman?s classic, "my mother is a fish" is a clear example of how his mind dealt with the loss of his mother and his judgement and objectivity was clouded by this fact. "Not even after Brother Whitfield, a godly man if ever one breathed God?s breath, prayed for you and strove as never a man could except him," at Brother Whitfield?s own admission, he