In the opening paragraph, his detailed physical description of Jewel and him walking on the path exhibits what we soon see is a strong faith that language makes memory, perception, and action real. (Lockyer 74)
She also notes that Darl is the character who speaks the most in the novel, thus showing his adherence to the value of language in his actions as well as his words. In doing so, she says, "he displays the omniscience, verbal range, and responsibility for interpretation that we associate with a narrator" (Lockyer 74). What Darl says also solidifies the view that Addie has been isolated and has also been deceived by her former faith in words. Faulkner develops a range of views of language and its use and of the degree to which different characters express their own relationship with language.
Lockyer discusses this further and cites Mikhail Bakhtin on the novel to the effect that "the word does not exist in a neutral and impersonal language" (Bakhtin 294), an idea that infuses as I Lay Dying. Lockyer notes that Cash is the only character able to accommodate the idea of the other in language:
The novel, according to Bakhtin, is the ultimate recognition of language as always contingent upon context and thus never absolute nor static. His theory offers a way to read the subtext of as I Lay Dying. The novel moves, always in the shadow of Addie's words, to seek connections among its fifteen separate narrators. (Lockyer 75)
Those connections are made on the basis of ideas of time, of language, of the relationship to the mother, and of the power of the mother as a female force in the world.
Daniel J. Singal considers this issue as he compares Caddy in the Sound and the Fury and Addie in as I Lay Dying as well as several other women in different works by Faulkner and notes how "all the characters, in one form or another, take on maternal roles toward boys or young men" (Singal 77) and that Faulkner repeats the disyllable "addie" in many of the names. Singal concludes that these characters all represent "Faulkner's small, dark-haired, and fiercely proud mother, who, Richard Gray informs us, 'haunted the novelist just as his great-grandfather did' and whom he addressed during his youth as 'Lady'" (Singal 77).
Addie has an orientation in time that differs from he children in that where they are at best rooted in the present and in their own immediate sensations, she is both a carrier of the past and a women looking to the future. Her desire to have people know she is alive is partially a present orientation but also prepares for a future through her children. She has given consideration to what her children will have to do to keep her in mind as she is dying, yet now that she is dead, she continues to exercise her power and to direct them to the future she envisions. Her section at the very center of the novel suggests this as well, linking a past and future of equal length, keeping herself at the center at all times and in all ways. The title is as I Lay Dying, which also puts her at the center of the group, though she is already dead when the novel begins and so refers back to her time of dying and to how that time and this are connected. When the work was first published, reviews were mixed: "The fifteen streams of consciousness and the fifty-nine monologues again proved too complicated for some, one critic calling it 'a psychological jig-saw puzzle'" (as I Lay Dying para. 4). This may be true, but the novel is not as complicated as these critics believed and guides the reader through its thematic concerns with changes in language, shifts in point-of-view, and references to time and its movement.
As I Lay Dying (August 1998). Ann Arbor, Michigan: The University of Michigan. November 22, 2008. http://www.lib.umich.edu/spec-coll/faulknersite/faulknersite/majornovels/dying.html.
Bakhtin, Mikhail. "Discourse in the Novel." In the Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, edited by Michael Holquist. Translated by Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist, 259-422. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. New York: Vintage, 1930.
Guerard, Albert J. The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner. New York: Oxford, 1976.
Lockyer, Judith. Ordered by Words: Language and Narration in the Novels of William Faulkner. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press, 1991.
Merrill, Robert. "Faulknerian Tragedy: The Example of 'As I Lay Dying.'" the Mississippi Quarterly, Volume 47, Issue 3 (1994), 403-410.
Millgate, Michael. The Achievement of William Faulkner. New York: Random House, 1966.
Singal, Daniel J. William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 1997.
Tuck, Dorothy. Crowell's Handbook of William Faulkner. New York:…