Summary and Analysis
In these next sections, Faulkner continues presenting his various narrators and characters in the novel. By the time the reader has finished Cora's second narration, he should be aware that Faulkner is creating a magnificent picture of the backwoods, self-righteous, superficial woman. It is ironic that with these qualifications Faulkner will allow her to make some basic and true observations of the other characters. For example, in Cora's section, we hear for the first time that Darl is somewhat different from the other Bundrens. This basic idea will become central to the novel since in the final scenes Darl will be declared insane and will be sent to the asylum outside of Jackson, Mississippi.
In this section, Cora also mentions that Darl is the one whom people consider to be strange or queer. But at the same time, she makes the observation that he is the only one who can get things done without causing too much dissension. Darl's strangeness, of course, will later be equated with his insanity, yet at the same time Darl is the only Bundren who can accomplish a simple task in a straightforward manner.
Cora makes another observation that is important because it concerns the relationship between Darl and Addie Bundren. Cora comments that the truest understanding and love exist between Darl and his mother. Consequently, from this one neighbor we have the view that there is a special type of relationship between Darl and Addie, and yet at the same time Cora also recognizes that Addie is more partial to Jewel.
Cora's final observation is that Addie Bundren even in death is still filled with excessive pride. But throughout all of these observations, as noted previously, the reader must be ready to respond to them only in terms of the individual section. That is to say, Cora is not the most intelligent or the most impartial witness in the novel. Therefore we cannot put too much reliance on her comments, but at the same time we must be prepared to react as if they might be the truth.
Section 7 of the novel introduces the daughter, Dewey Dell, who will ultimately turn out to be one of Faulkner's great comic creations. And at the same time she will be seen to be an exceptionally vicious person in her feelings toward Darl. The tension that develops between Dewey Dell and her brother Darl results from Dewey Dell's pregnancy, which Darl seems to know about.
We are never to know definitely how Darl has come to discover that Dewey Dell is pregnant, but on account of his taunting her about her condition, Dewey Dell develops an intense hatred for her brother, and this hatred will later cause her to attack him violently. We are, of course, led to believe that Darl is the type who can project himself into the personality of another person and automatically know what that other person is thinking. It is perhaps through such a mysterious procedure that Darl learns of Dewey Dell's pregnancy.
An example of Faulkner's superb humor is seen in the reasoning behind Dewey Dell's seduction. Faulkner, along with other great writers like Chaucer, is never afraid to enter into the most elemental, bawdy, or earthy type of humor in depicting his characters. In this section, we see Dewey Dell trying to disclaim all responsibility for her seduction and her later pregnancy by a strange, perverted, deterministic reasoning process — one that assures her that she will definitely be seduced by Lafe. Her reasoning is almost a type of fatalism on her part. We can later assume that her reasoning process is so basic and so simple that she cannot think silently. Therefore, it is possible that during the above reasoning process she has been talking aloud. Consequently, Lafe could have heard her reflections and put cotton into her sack so as to make sure that it is full by the time she reaches the end of the cotton row; then it follows that she must have sex with him. This action on Lafe's part is a definite pun on Faulkner's part; that is, Lafe fills Dewey Dell's cotton sack with cotton so that he might fill her womb sack.
The section narrated by the neighbor, Vernon Tull, introduces us to one of the more objective and reliable narrators. Tull is a simple, basic, and honest person who has none of the religious fervor or prejudice of his wife, and who records events as they appear to him without any comment about them. Accordingly, we can basically accept Tull's narration as objective because he does not concern himself with side comments. He simply renders the scene as he sees that particular scene.
In Tull's section, we are also introduced to Vardaman and the fish that he has just caught, both of which will become very important in later chapters. Likewise, Tull also makes an observation about the weather, thinking that it is soon going to rain. This rain will hinder the trip that the Bundrens must make toward Jefferson.
In an earlier section, we had seen Anse Bundren say, as though he were a completely self-sufficient and independent person, that he will never be beholden to any person. In Tull's section, we receive an outside view of how independent Anse really is. Tull comments that he has helped Anse for so much of their lives that it would be difficult for him to stop helping him now. Consequently, Tull's statement conforms to Darl's analysis of his father, and we are beginning to realize that Anse is a totally ineffectual individual who needs someone to take care of him. The ineffectuality of Anse, of course, leads us directly into the next section, which is narrated by Anse himself.
Anse Bundren's main occupation is sitting on the porch and watching the road, which he resents because he had to pay taxes in order to build the road. But even the smallest task is a great hardship for Anse. When he tries to explain something, his thoughts become totally confused. Any effort to accomplish something requires a great deal of deliberation, and he finds as many excuses as possible to avoid doing any work at all.
The arrival of the doctor is also told first through Anse's point of view. This is significant because Anse begrudges the money that he has to pay the doctor. His only interest is in getting his false teeth, and if he has to pay the doctor because of Addie's sickness, he will not be able to get them. We also realize that Anse would never have called the doctor on his own volition. Anse's desire to get his teeth will later play a strong role in motivating his promise to take Addie to Jefferson to bury her.
Vardaman and the fish image reappear even in Anse's section, an image that will continue until Vardaman confuses his mother with the dead fish.
The tenth section, narrated by Darl, seems to totally disregard time, but the reader should remember that this section occurs while Jewel and Darl are away from the house. And yet during the section he taunts Dewey Dell as though she were present also. In other words, Darl is able to visualize and recreate scenes from the past and present them as though they were in the present.
Darl seems to like to taunt both Dewey Dell and Jewel. These taunts may reveal a very perceptive sensibility; for example, we hear him accuse Dewey Dell of wishing her mother dead so that she, Dewey Dell, can get to town to have an abortion. So Darl can instinctively know both that Dewel Dell is pregnant and that Dewey Dell is anxious to get to town. Later we will see that Dewey Dell is the person who violently insists that Anse keep his promise to take Addie to Jefferson.
Darl's delight in taunting, teasing, or antagonizing both Dewey Dell and Jewel may possibly be accounted for by the fact that Darl senses the deep-founded love between Jewel and his mother, so he seems to take either some perverse or jealous pleasure in taunting Jewel.