Feminist Perspective of Addie Bundren of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

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A Feminist Perspective of Addie Bundren of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying

Addie Bundren of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying has often been characterized as an unnatural, loveless, cold mother whose demands drive her family on a miserable trek to bury her body in Jefferson. For a feminist understanding of Addie, we have to move outside the traditional patriarchal definitions of "womanhood" or "motherhood" that demand selflessness from others, blame mothers for all familial dysfunction, and only lead to negative readings of Addie. She also has been characterized as yet another Faulkner character who is unable to express herself using language. This modernist view of the inexpressiblility of the creative spirit does not apply to
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In other words, language is a phallocentric system created by men that represents males as subjects and females as objects. It follows, then, that because language, or the symbolic order, is phallocentric, women are not represented within it and cannot effectively use it to define themselves. Using this feminist definition of language, I will illustrate that Addie sees language as a patriarchal construct that she stands outside of, that cannot explain her identity or her sexuality, and that she cannot use. Julia Kristeva writes, "many women . . . complain that they experience language as something secondary, cold, foreign to their lives. To their passion. To their suffering. To their desire. As if language were a foreign body" (131). This is the way in which Addie views language.

Addie's chapter in As I Lay Dying, the only chapter in which she is allowed to speak, is her attempt to come into, to explain, and to use a language that is foreign to her. While Addie is trapped within a larger social system that oppresses her in a number of ways (not only linguistically), this is mainly a chapter about patriarchal language and about the inability of that language to express her desire, her identity, and her very existence. Addie says:

And when I knew that I had Cash . .

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