As I Lay Dying

by: William Faulkner

Sections 29–33

Jewel’s character is likewise further revealed, and his fierce independence confirmed, through his stare. We see Jewel rant earlier in the novel about the interference of the Tull women, but his rants against Tull show how strongly he believes that Addie’s death is a private affair. This autonomy is called into question when it appears necessary for the family to use Tull’s mule to cross the river. But Jewel transforms this apparent need to depend on Tull into an act of independence, as he offers to buy the beast on the spot. Tull’s observes that Jewel’s eyes “look like pieces of a broken plate” as he offers to buy the mule, and this angry glare is as indicative of Jewel’s torn and grieving state as it is of his hatred for Tull.

Darl, on the other hand, is enigmatic, and his gaze supports this air of mystery. Dewey Dell, so good at spotting sexual desire in everyone else’s eyes, feels threatened by Darl because his stare is completely lacking in lust, and she cannot understand him. She remarks that “the land runs out of Darl’s eyes,” suggesting that Darl has an overarching power to observe, process, and explain the environment around him. As Tull arrives at the river’s edge to help the Bundrens with the crossing, he too is paralyzed by Darl. Tull remarks that the intensity of Darl’s gaze makes it seem “[l]ike somehow you was looking at yourself and your doings outen his eyes.” In this fictional world, where characters are wrapped up in their own thoughts and communicate very little with each other, Darl’s ability to look inside others’ hearts is perceived as a powerful threat. Each character treasures his or her secrets and hidden desires, and is troubled by, and resentful of, this glance that seems to lay them all bare.