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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.64, No.2, 239 ~ 253, 2018
Reading Against the Grain: Whiteness, Class, and Space in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying
Mi Ok Sa
Many critics on William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying have read Addie Bundren as the disrupter of patriarchal power. By raising a question about the usefulness of language, which is the symbolic power of patriarchy and having an affair with the preacher Whitfield outside her wedlock, Addie directly challenges patriarchal power. From a quite different vantage point, however, we can read Addie as the faithful protector of the norm of whiteness in the South in light of the social hierarchy. As a former school teacher, Addie is from middle class before her marriage. By her marriage to Anse, who is a lower-class white, Addie has class anxiety that her social status in the stratum of whiteness could be degraded from a middle to a lower-class white, “white trash,” which means that she is not white enough to be considered as the normative whiteness. Especially, Addie’s anxiety increases due to the fact that her lazy husband is reluctant to work and relies on her neighbors, causing her family to be entrapped at the bottom in the stratum of whiteness. Therefore, she decides to take revenge on her husband after giving birth to her second child Darl by asking Anse to bury her dead body in her familial burial site in Jefferson. By rendering her family to suffer the hardship during her funeral procession, not only does she succeed in taking revenge on Anse on the surface, she regains her social status as a middle-class white by being buried in Jefferson fundamentally.
Key Words
As I Lay Dying, Whiteness, Class Anxiety, White Trash, Space
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