As I Lay Dying

by: William Faulkner

Religion

1

“Who are you, to say what is sin and what is not sin? It is the Lord’s part to judge; ours to praise His mercy and His holy name in the hearing of our fellow mortals” because He alone can see into the heart, and just because a woman’s life is right in the sight of man, she cant know if there is no sin in her heart without she opens her heart to the Lord and receives His grace.

The Bundrens’ neighbor, Cora, represents the theme of religion in this novel through her many diatribes regarding religion, Christianity, and praising the Lord. In this quote, Cora reacts to Addie Bundren’s lacking religion and failure to properly praise God and follow his teachings. The irony comes with Cora ultimately judging Addie Bundren while saying that the Lord can be the only judge. Through Cora’s contradictory religious statements, the theme of religion in this novel parallels Addie Bundren’s view of religion as something society simply uses to judge others and promote conformity.

2

I have sinned, O Lord. Thou knowest the extent of my remorse and the will of my spirit. But he is merciful; He will accept the will for the deed . . . It was He in His infinite wisdom that restrained the tale from her dying lips as she lay surrounded by those who loved and trusted her; mine the travail by water which I sustained by the strength of His hand.

When Whitfield narrates his chapter upon his arrival at the Bundren home soon after Addie’s death, he further defines the theme of religion through his cowardly acts. This speech reveals the hypocrisy of religion in this society as even a local minister, held up as a symbol of godliness, admits to committing adultery and then uses religion as a scapegoat to avoid confessing to or paying for his sins. Whitfield basically uses God and his religion as the reasons for his shortcomings as he fails to accept responsibility.

3

. . . if there can ever be an excuse for sin, which it cant be. And then, life wasn’t made to be easy on folks: they wouldn’t ever have any reason to be good and die. “Look here,” I said. “You get that notion out of your head. The Lord gave you what you have, even if He did use the devil to do it; you let Him take it away from you if it’s His will to do so. You go on back to Lafe and you and him take that ten dollars and get married with it.”

When Dewey Dell makes her first attempt to get an abortion treatment from Moseley, the druggist in Mottson, he continues the theme of religion as he denies her requests in a sanctimonious way. However, Moseley even seems to hesitate a bit before his religious lecture, realizing how difficult this situation must be for Dewey Dell or any woman. Then Moseley quickly uses religion to deny Dewey Dell and hold true to his judgments and religious rules. Again, religion in this novel seems to represent only judgment, hypocrisy, and a loss of free will.