wife of Anse Bundren and mother to Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell,
and Vardaman. Addie is a mostly absent protagonist, and her death
triggers the novel’s action. She is a former schoolteacher whose bitter,
loveless life causes her to despise her husband and to invest all
of her love in her favorite child, Jewel, rather than in the rest
of her family or God.
in-depth analysis of Addie Bundren.
head of the Bundren family. Anse is a poor farmer afflicted with
a hunchback, whose instincts are overwhelmingly selfish. His poor
childrearing skills seem to be largely responsible for his children’s
various predicaments. Alternately hated and disrespected by his
children, Anse nonetheless succeeds in achieving his two greatest
goals in one fell swoop: burying his dead wife in her hometown of
Jefferson, and acquiring a new set of false teeth.
second Bundren child. Darl is the most sensitive and articulate
of the surviving Bundrens and delivers the greatest number of interior
monologues in the novel. As the family encounters disaster upon disaster
during the trip, Darl’s frustration with the whole process leads
him to try to end things decisively by incinerating his dead mother’s
in-depth analysis of Darl Bundren.
bastard child of Addie and Whitfield, the minister. Though Darl
seems to understand him, Jewel remains the novel’s greatest mystery,
and is the least represented in its many sections. Jewel has a proud,
fiercely independent nature that most of his family and neighbors
confuse for selfishness. His passionate, brooding nature, however,
reveals a real love and dedication to his mother, and he becomes
a fierce protector of her coffin.
in-depth analysis of Jewel.
eldest Bundren child and a skilled carpenter. Cash is the paragon
of patience and selflessness, almost to the point of absurdity.
He refuses ever to complain about his broken, festering leg, allowing
the injury to degenerate to the point that he may never walk again. Cash
emerges as one of the novel’s few consistently stable characters.
Dewey Dell Bundren
The only Bundren daughter. Dewey Dell is seventeen,
and a recent sexual experience has left her pregnant. Increasingly
desperate, she finds her mind occupied exclusively with her pregnancy,
and views all men with varying degrees of suspicion.
The youngest of the Bundren children. Vardaman has
a lively imagination, and he views his mother’s death through the
same lens with which he views a fish he has recently caught and
cleaned. Although his ramblings at the beginning of the novel border
on the maniacal, Vardaman proves to be a thoughtful and innocent
Bundrens’ wealthier neighbor. Tull is both a critic of and an unappreciated
help to the Bundrens. He hires Darl, Jewel, and Cash for odd jobs,
and helps the family cross the river in spite of its overt hostility toward
him. Tull and his wife Cora, however, are critical of the Bundrens’
decision to bury Addie’s body in Jefferson.
Tull’s wife. Cora stays with Addie during Addie’s final hours. A
deeply religious woman and pious to a fault, Cora frequently and
vocally disapproves of Addie’s impiety and behavior.
father of Dewey Dell’s child. While he never appears in person in
the novel, Lafe is certainly a driving force behind many of Dewey
Dell’s thoughts and much of her behavior. In a supreme effort to disassociate
himself from her problems, Lafe gives Dewey Dell ten dollars with
which to pay for
local minister. Held up by Cora Tull as the pinnacle of piety, Whitfield
is in fact a hypocrite. His affair with Addie results in Jewel’s
conception, and, though Whitfield resolves to confess the affair
to Anse, he ends up deciding that the mere intention to confess
will do just as well.
severely overweight rural doctor who attends to Addie and later
to Cash. Peabody is extremely critical of the way Anse treats his
local farmer who puts up the Bundrens on the first evening of their
disastrous funeral journey. Samson sees the Bundrens’ problems as
a judgment on the family’s uncouth manners and on Addie and Anse’s
disregard for God and their own children.
local farmer who puts up the Bundrens on the
second evening of their funeral journey. Anse repeatedly and rigidly
refuses Armstid’s offer to lend Anse a team of mules.
farmer who puts up the Bundrens later in their journey.
Mottson druggist who indignantly refuses Dewey Dell’s request for
an abortion. Moseley’s stern lecture to Dewey Dell is both the embodiment
of sanctimoniousness and, some might say, of
rather despicable young employee at a Jefferson drugstore. MacGowan
extorts a sexual favor from Dewey Dell in return for a fake abortion
The Gillespie boy
Gillespie’s son, who helps Jewel save the animals
from the burning barn.