The symbolism of different animals relates to specific characters in William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying embodies that character’s inner feelings, thoughts, and overall mental state.
Vardaman, who is the youngest of the Bundren family, is deeply affected by the death of his mother but he doesn’t realize it until he compares his dead mother to a fish. In the text, it says “It was not her because it was laying right yonder in the dirt. And now it’s all chopped up. I chopped it up. It’s laying in the kitchen in the bleeding pan, waiting to be cooked and et.” (Faulkner 66). The thought of the lifeless fish helps Vardaman comprehend the death of his mother. The only way he’s able to understand the meaning of death is by relating his mother’s death to a fish that he has recently caught which is now dead. He relates it to his mom since both his mom and the fish were both once brimming with life and now they are deceased. The phrase “It’s laying in the kitchen in the bleeding pan, waiting to be cooked and et ”(Faulkner 66). It can be represented as Addie since it’s like if she was laying there waiting to be buried and waiting to be inside the coffin that Cash is building for her. In the novel, Vardaman also says “My mother is a fish” (Faulkner 84). The reason why he said that is because he has such a poor comprehension of death that he thinks his mom is a fish. He believes this since he saw her coffin drifting away in the river which gets him to relate it to a fish since fishes swim in the water.
Dewey Dell who is the only girl in the household finds out about her unwanted pregnancy which gets symbolized as a cow. She shows anger towards the cow by saying “You’ll just have to wait. what you got in you, ain’t nothing to what I got in me.” (Faulkner 42). Her pregnancy is showing the maternal role she has to fill now since the death of their mother. The cow’s breath is described as ‘warm and rough’ which is bringing comfort to Dewey Dell and Vardaman since they are both still grieving from the loss of their beloved mother. The impact that Addie has left creates an everlasting impact on her kids and shows how sad they are and how they are grieving from the maternal care they have recently lost.
Faulkner uses symbolism to differentiate animals from specific characters to get a deeper understanding of their thoughts and the inner feeling of the situation.