Back in 1930, ‘As I Lay Dying’ was brought in the lime light by William Faulkner. The text revolves around Addie Bundren sickness, her eventual death and burial ceremony. In the text, the author uses the family of the deceased to communicate their information through monologue. The late Addie Bundren is not caught in many incidences by the reader using monologue apart from when she is pronouncing her burial site. In this article, the focus will be in one specific way in which Lori Parks in her text Getting Mother’s Body 2003, echoes and perhaps rewrites William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying 1930. It will focus on how a specific theme of death is focused in the latter as echoed in the former. The essay will bring on the surface how death is witnessed in the two books beyond the literal meaning of the word. Like for example, how is death experienced in marriages? What causes the death of characters? How is it received by the bereaved?
Right from the titles of the two texts, a keen reader can read between the lines that death encompasses the author’s mind right from the word go. William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying 1930, revolves around the death Addie whose death brings on the surface so many issues through out the text. Just as the title of the text goes, Addie met her death while lying on the bed. In Lori Parks’s text Getting Mother’s Body 2003 Billy’s mother, Willa Mae, equally met her death while lying in the bed although the text bears a different title. Getting mother’s body are words that tells more than meets the eyes. A keen reader can easily tell that the book is about death. Apart from the deaths of these two women in each case, deaths in different perspectives are brought out by the two authors.
In the two books, the theme of death is evident and is being represented by the two mothers in each case. Just like in Faulkner’s book where the family is moving with the body of their dead mother in preparation for burial in the upcountry, in Parks text, Billy Beede is soliciting for support from his close friends and family to help get the body of her mother given that the burial location is being taken over by a shopping mall enterprise. In Parks’ text, the mother’s blues songs are used symbolically by the author to show her message while in Faulkner’s text the mum talks while in the burial box. In this text, the author engineers the death of Billy’s mother to come when she is only ten years of age and this leaves her with a lot of problems as the only people who can take care of her is the aunt and the uncle. On the other hand, Faulkner brings on the surface the little children of Addie when she dies. Although the father is still alive, the family is very poor and they even struggle to give her a decent burial. The financial capability of Bundren’s family is as god as dead. The fact that when she dies the family struggles to give her a decent burial is clear that their financial situation is at stake.
In Getting Mother’s Body by Parks, the death of Billy’s mother left her so disappointed now that she was an orphan and she was living in Texas town which was being associated with poverty. This is also the same case in Faulkner’s text when Cash the eldest son of Addie makes her a coffin way before she had died. The death of Addie Bundren in Faulkner’s text is received by the family members differently. The youngest son Vandram likens her death to that of a fish he manages to trap some hours back. He is so disturbed that her mother is closed in a box. Just like Billy Beede gets pregnant while still a teenager, the same happens to Dewey Dell in Faulkner’s book in that she gets pregnant while still a teenager.
Another echo in form of thematic concern of death by Parks is the death that is experienced in marriages. In the text ‘Getting Mother’s Body’, Billy is unfortunate to get pregnant while she is hardly eighteen years of age. On getting pregnant, she parts way with her estranged boyfriend. This can be viewed as a death of a relationship which emanates from the love that the two had dying. On the other hand, in the text ‘As I lay Dying’ Faulkner’s exposes Dewey Dell as experiencing the same type of death in her affair with Lafe. This is clearly brought immediately after her mother dies so much so that she is so frustrated that she cannot even be in a position to mourn the death of her mother. Going by this, it is evident that parks echoed Faulkner’s book only that in the latter’s text the girl gets pregnant immediately her mother dies while in the former’s it come after some time.
In Parks text, ‘Getting Mother’s Body’ the sudden death of Willa Mae’s marriage is brought out. When this happens, she decides to move in with Dill Smiles. After some time Billy is born although she is dark skinned owing to her mother’s many lovers. This is after the death of her former marriage which equally does not seem to work magic for her. On the other hand, in Faulkner’s text, the marriage of Addie Bundren is headed for the rocks due to poverty. This leads to constant quarrels between her and Anse Bundren her husband.
The theme of death is further emphasized in the two books on how the bereaved behave upon the death of a loved one. For instance, when Willa Mae succumbs, owing to self induced miscarriage, Dill Smiles, upon receiving the shocking information, avails himself in hospital just in time to offer her a decent burial as the deceased had requested. Willa, as it is revealed in the text, had been buried with very expensive jewels. This is a clearly indication how the dead are honored by those left behind. On the other hand, the death of Addie Bundren is taken with a lot of seriousness by all and sundry in Faulkner’s text. Upon her death after a long illness, her son Cash takes his time to build a coffin just for his mother. He does this with a lot of seriousness as he takes into account all his skill to come up with something magnificent just for her mother. On the burial ceremony day, the same honor for the dead is witnessed where people sing in honor of Addie. The men are also seen observing silence as a sign of respect and honor to the deceased. In the same way dill smiles honors the wish of Willa Mae on where she will be buried, Anse Bundren tries so much to honor the request of her wife although by the time she dies he is very broke.
It is amazing how the dying women talk in their deathbed. In Parks’ text, ‘Getting’s Mother’s Body’, Willa talks to dill smiles on where to be buried. She also reveals her affair with an affluent man who gave her an expensive ring. She requests to be buried with it. In Faulkner’s text, Addie Bundren talks on her deathbed about her affair with a rich man from the town. This she says led to a very miserable marriage to her husband Anse Bundren. It is the same infidelity that resulted to the birth of Jewel just like in Parks’ it led to Billy’s birth.
The theme of death is further emphasized in different ways by the two authors. In Parks’ text, the death is symbolically brought through self induced miscarriage by Willa Mae. It is clearly seen in the text how the writer engineered Willa’s death through abortion that turns sour. This is meant by the author to show the reader how dangerous abortion is, that it can result to death. In Faulkner’s text, the author uses the younger son to compare the death of Willa with that of a fish. It can be explained to say that the death of the fish is symbolic of Willa’s death just as the young son observes. It is also surprising how everybody relates everything to death. Upon the death of her mother Jewel also tends to think that his horse was dead.
In a strange but equally humorous way, the two authors bring on the surface the death of the unborn. In Parks’ text, Willa Mae meets her death while she was trying to kill the unborn child in her womb. As fate would have it, the unfortunate happens. This might have been used by the author to caution on the dangers that comes with abortion. In Faulkner’s book, Dewey Dell attempts to commit the same mistake that Willa did although her efforts to try and buy a medicine to induce abortion is cut short by a pharmacy attendant who takes her to bed. Finally, the last nail on the coffin of Anse’s marriage to Addie is witnessed when he introduces his new bride to his children.
It is worthy noting that, any time death is introduced, there is beginning of another life. In other words the end of one thing marks the beginning of another. For instance, when the Willa’s marriage dies, she began another affair with Smiles. In a similar manner, when the marriage between Addie and Anse faces death, Addie began to have a relationship with a wealthy man in the town and she even end up conceiving. In addition to that, upon the death of Addie, Anse got hooked up with another woman and the two eventually got married. The death of Addie which marked the end of her marriage to Anse paved way for another marriage. This comes shortly after she dies.
In conclusion, Parks’ text, ‘Getting Mother’s Body’ borrows heavily from Faulkner’s text ‘As I lay Down’ in many perspectives. The same thematic concerns addressed in the former’s book are the same in the latter’s. Likewise, in perspective of developing the characters in terms of how they are behaving, Parks has not indicated any substantial difference as they take after each other in each case. For instance, just like Faulkner brings the death of Addie on the bed, it is the same way Parks brings the death of Willa Mae on the bed. Similarly, Billy is damped by the boyfriend on getting pregnant in Parks’ text. In the same manner, Dewey Dell is damped and she even attempts to carry out abortion in Faulkner’s book. All in all, Parks has given the story a different meaning and it sounds more interesting compared with the original text.