[W]ords dont ever fit even what they are trying to say at. . . . [M]otherhood was invented by someone who had to have a word for it because the ones that had the children didn’t care whether there was a word for it or not.
The novel again turns a critical eye on language in this quotation, which is drawn from Section 40, the only section in the novel narrated by Addie Bundren. Addie describes her discovery that life is miserable as a sort of trick on the part of language, which promises fulfilling things but can deliver only empty words. To speak of something, this passage infers, is far easier, and leads to far more pleasant conclusions, than to experience it. This philosophy may partially explain the laconic nature of most of the novel’s characters, and their unwillingness to communicate with words, relying more heavily upon visual communication and action. One of the remarkable achievements of As I Lay Dying—a novel composed, of course, of nothing but words—is to show how a world in which verbal communication is ineffective or unreliable can be as rich with emotion and experience as one that is highly verbal.