Notes on As I Lay Dying Themes

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As I Lay Dying Topic Tracking: Poverty

Poverty 1: Anse and Addie Bundren live in a poor section of Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. It is a fictional setting in which Faulkner sets most of his stories. Because of their poverty, they are forced to live life in a more difficult manner than those who have more money for the better things in life.

Poverty 2: Although the Tulls are not as poor as the Bundrens, they also feel the financial strain of life. Kate is frustrated when the wealthy townswomen no longer need Cora's cakes. Cora tells her that money is unimportant in the eyes of the Lord.

Poverty 3: Vernon Tull offers Anse a lumber job for which he and his sons can earn a total of three dollars. Because money is so scarce, Jewel and Darl decide to take the job so that they can make the money, and leave home despite their mother's illness.

Poverty 4: Peabody is a doctor who comes from greater wealth than the Bundrens and thinks them lower class. He enters the poor family to help Addie as she dies. The stark distinction between class and money is obvious as Peabody speaks with Anse.

Poverty 5: Because of Anse's promise to Addie in conjunction with their poverty, the Bundrens travel in a rickety wooden wagon to Jefferson County. They do not have enough money to travel any other way, and have also promised their mother to bury her with her family.

Poverty 6: Anse complains of the differences between city and country folk. One of the distinctions is money and he wishes that all people would get the same profits and be treated equally. He has no teeth and has not had enough money or means to buy a new set. He hopes to get some in Jefferson.

Poverty 7: Jewel spends his night hours doing hard manual labor, cleaning a field, in order to purchase his own horse. Since money is scarce in the County and among the Bundrens, Jewel tells nobody about his nocturnal activities, until he brings home the new stag. He tells Anse that he will take care of it without a cent of monetary aid from him.

Poverty 8: Anse trades Jewel's horse in for a new team of mules to help the family get to Jefferson. He also mortgages some of his farming equipment, for he does not have enough money on his own to get the mules. Armstid feels badly for the Bundrens, for they are poorer than he and in need of help. He wants to lend them his mules for their journey.

Poverty 9: Dewey Dell walks into the pharmacy in Mottson with her mere ten dollars from Lafe seeking an abortion. The pharmacist is appalled by her request and throws her out, telling her that the ten dollars should be used to get married. Dewey Dell does not understand and sees the financial means necessary for her predicament and furthermore does not understand the image of bringing her abortion into a wealthier city. To Moseley the pharmacist, she looks like a poor country girl with only ten dollars begging for an abortion. Moseley also hears the story about the Bundrens describing them as a poor family in a dilapidated wagon from the country.

Poverty 10: Peabody is shocked to learn of the poor method in which the Bundren family takes care of Cash. Their personal methods of fixing his broken leg will now leave him permanently disabled. They did not have the money and time to help Cash during his time of need, and therefore continued onward. Cash never complains about his pain and now accepts his station in life as a poor cripple.

Poverty 11: Anse questions Dewey Dell on the source of her ten dollars. She cannot tell him that it comes from Lafe for an abortion. Because he has no money and is desperate for new teeth and a new life, he takes her money and runs.

Poverty 12: Anse returns from town with new teeth, a gramophone, a new clean-shaven look, and a new wife. It seems that he has used whatever money he has to bring his appearance out of the poverty level.

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