Friday, March 21, 2014

To Overcome Authority

This is a pretty naked overview of my aspirations for my paper. However, during the past couple of weeks, I have fallen in love with FEEDBACK! So, if anyone is willing, take the time to read the following mini-paper, I'd love to have a conversation about the ideas I'm presenting!

Question: What is the effect of ignorant parenting on children and can they overcome it?

Depriving Childhood Through Authority

In Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, the Bundren children are dwindling in poverty, selfishness, and animosity. However, in each child’s narration of the story, there can be found deep insight into human nature, which contains more prudence and virtue than that of their parents. Still, they are at the mercy of their father and recently deceased mother. Similarly, Lewis Carroll’s character, Alice, journeys into Wonderland and finds herself succumbing to the whims of various adults. Just as Alice is ridiculously scorned, mislead, and reprimanded by the authority figures in her journey through Wonderland, the offspring of Addie Bundren represent the precarious condition of children that do not have reliable authority figures in their lives in the novel As I Lay Dying. Lewis Carroll and William Faulkner's works identify the damage caused to children by dysfunctional family environments and autocratic adults.

The parental figures in As I Lay Dying show an excessive amount of egocentrism and selfishness. Addie Bundren talks about her “aloneness” and how becoming pregnant is a violation of that aloneness. Anse is incredibly lazy, but forces his children to work his land, and is merciless as he keeps them working. Because of this, the Bundren children have developed particular flaws in character. Cash is obsessed with his carpentry. Darl is incredibly introspective and apparently insane. Jewel is constantly angry and abusive while Dewey Dell has fallen under sexual promiscuity. Vardaman’s character is the most difficult to discern, but he has a fixation with death and his mother. Without the comfort from his only living parent, Anse, Vardaman seems to be interacting with everyone in the story, but cannot find solace. He is lost. These character flaws show the consequences of egocentric parenting.

Similarly, in Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Alice migrates under the control of authority to authority. None of them are her actual parents, but they represent the different character traits that flawed parents may possess. The Red Queen is extremely authoritative, while the White Queen is depressed. The Mad trio represents mental illness, and the vanishing Cheshire cat represents a parent who is not completely involved in their child’s life. Humpty Dumpty shows a parent who shuts down the imagination of a child, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee represent arguing parents. All of this is detrimental to Alice, and in both books, she learns this and overcomes all Wonderland authority, leaving her harmful environment.

William Faulkner's work shows a world where children, in a real-life situation, crumble and a family is torn apart because of ignorant, egocentric, and authoritative parenting. As the children stay in the harmful environment of their family and the dysfunctional shadow of their parents, their morals wither and they fall into their respective ill fates. However, through the fantasy of Alice’s Wonderland, Carroll illustrates a story that highlights the child’s strength in overcoming the looming fate of being smothered by harmful parenting. Alice realizes that her mad mentors do not have to direct her journey and she can take charge of her own story. Unfortunately, not all children overcome harmful parenting, and they fall into the trap in which the Bundrens were ensnared.


  1. Great analysis! This is a really good topic to glean from both novels. I hadn't thought of each of Carroll's characters representing different aspects of dysfunctional parenting but I totally like it. Very insightful of you. And I think that your question about the effects of harmful parenting in general is a great way to relate your topic to the real world and make it relevant for the reader.

  2. This is very interesting and not something I had thought of before! One source you might want to check out is the "Cyclopedia of Literary Places" because it discusses the symbolic, psychological passage from childhood to adulthood represented in "Alice in Wonderland," and also discusses the effect of the authority figures in her life. It's super interesting and might be helpful!

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  4. This causes me to look at Alice in a whole new light. I really don't like the story, but I love being able to make some psychological sense out of it. I enjoy reading about your insights, and I really need to read As I Lay Dying.