Compare and Contrast Eva Peace From Sula and Addie Bundren From as I Lay Dying Term Paper

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EVA Peace and Addie Bunden

Toni Morrison's Eva Peace and William Faulkner's Addie Bunden, present a clear portrait of the complexities of identity in the post-Civil War south for the African-American s. To describe these books as "complex" does little to assist us in understanding their true power.

What both works accomplish is a summation of the comprehensive and pervasive effects of centuries of slavery wrought upon the African-American psyche. To internalize a perpetual state of hopelessness, to be forced into a life not of your choosing, to know that there is no hope for better, no chance to strike it rich, to become famous, to succeed in life at all, is something so utterly incomprehensible to many that it takes books like Sula. And as I Lay Dying to understand even the smallest aspect of what such a soul-crushing force that slavery and the post-war South wrought on the people on both sides of the racial divide. The end of the war did not bring freedom, it brought death and destruction, the collapse of an immoral social structure and economic system, and the removal of any remaining protections afforded by slavery. These books are stories not about individuals, but about the entire being, the soul and body of the south as it existed and worked out its inbred corrupting evil upon everyone it touched not as a malevolent force, but as ground that has been salted and can no longer grow healthy plants of any kind.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Compare and Contrast Eva Peace From Sula and Addie Bundren From as I Lay Dying Assignment

William Faulkner's South is one that deals frankly, honestly, and openly with the legacy of slavery. He offers neither apologies or excuses, just a moral reporter's view in which Faulkner chronicles the moral, social, individual and cultural costs that the corruption of slavery wrought upon the South. White and black characters exist not as individuals within these portraits of life, but as elements within the whole balancing each other. For Addie Bundren, the primary character in as I Lay Dying, is the representative / embodiment of the poor white southerner who, even post war, claims affiliation with the South through (in this instance) a claim of "people" in Jefferson. The significance of the town and of the desire to be buried there marks Addy as being a symbolic representative of the deepest of connections that people have in Faulkner's world do their collective and certainly archetypal past. She is also a force of nature, a direct link to the kind of inward turned hate and violence that had been perpetuated for so many years against Africn Americans under slavery and under the old Antebellum system.

Toni Morrison's South is a very similiarly complex and disturbing (to the soul) place as well. It can be said that when it comes to literature of the 20th century regarding the American South, that it is Faulkner who truly defined the genre. Certainly his work informed, to a cetaain degree, Morrison who's book, Sula, provides an incredibly complex view of the lives of African-Americans in the South.

More to the point, Morrison's structure, by following the lives of the eponymous character and her best friend, Eva Peace, from childhood to adulthood parallels the growing impatience within the African-American community with the kinds of post-war hold-overs from the Antebellum south: as the characters, and particularly Eva, grow older, they all start taking on the kind of aggressive or angry restlessness that stirred so powerfully within Sula herself. In all, these characters are controlled by the groundswell of the South - they are so deeply connected to the land and to the people that even though there is pain and strife, they either cannot or will not leave.

Addie Bundren and Eva peace both maintain their worlds through their physical and thus spiritual presence. Addie's life in the book is very short, but as her corpse is being carried to its final resting place, its very presence and its decay become clearly representative of the kind of underlying powers at work throughout the South. The decaying corpse, a clear representation of the "old" South is one that all the people of the South are bearing - they all have the same body to bear, and they all share the responsibility for burying it. In the end, Addie receives her freedom, but only after "extorting an exorbitant tribute to her power form the family she has disowned," (Yamaguchi, 122). The stench of Bundren's body as it rots becomes more and more powerful as the journey progresses and comes to be the manifestation of all of the family's unsaid pains and hidden histories that are causing a festering of their own souls (Baldanzi & Schlabach, 38). In this, Addie is less a character than a force.

It is this stench, the unrelenting pressure and presence of the pain and soul-destroying odor that drives Darl to attempt to cremate Addie prematurely - he is stirred to burn down the barn out of desperation to finally rid themselves of Addie's force before they must all reveal themselves and their souls to be as corrupted as Addie's body. This is also the case with Jewel who narrowly avoids grievous harm at the end of a knife over the smell, and the ire that the family raises in the communities they pass through. but, in many ways, the entire issue of rot and smell and the burden placed upon and taken up by the family is a twisted revenge by Addie as a form of punishment of Anse for having borne Darl. Addie clearly indicates that her intent is that Anse, "would never know I was taking revenge," (Faulkner, 175). Anse comes to represent the failed men of the South who were unable to change their world after the war, they were emaculated and crippled by the loss, and their collective psyche made them piteous and ineffective - thus raising the ire of the women who came to represent the undying motherhood (however corrupting) of the South.

Eva Peace's version of Addie's stench is her missing leg. The missing leg is the one thing that is never clearly explained - only supposed at. And this, too, in its own way comes to represent the nature of the South - that right or wrong, the entire people and their core culture had been amputated, deformed, made less whole by their participation in Slavery and all of the class structures inherent in the Plantation culture. Morrison's take, however, is to use the missing leg to represent an underlying force, an unavoidable awareness that people simply choose not to talk about (Price Davis, 60). Conversations between Eva and BoyBoy are typical of this kind of distancing behavior from the underlying causes of pain and suffering, "Their conversation was easy: she catching him up on all the gossip, he asking about this one and that one, and like everybody else avoiding any reference to her leg," (Morrison, 36).

The southern woman represented in both of these stories is the southern mother - regardless of color - that has the ability to give and take life, the lasting presence and power of the history of the place. Both Addie and Eva are corrupted souls - they have either sought the pain of their children and family or have caused it or both. They have each demonstrated a willingness to specifically target the men in their lives for simultaneous interest (of a carnal nature) and disgust (for their inherent and inherited weakness of character). Addie's dislike for her offspring is palpable, as a teacher, Addie had the additional symbolic role of motherhood, but her variation was to "hate" her students, when talking about what the day would be like after the students had gone home she said, "instead of going home I would go down the hill to the spring where I could be quiet and hate them. It would be quiet there then, with the water bubbling up and away and the sun slanting quiet in the trees and the quiet smelling of damp and rotting leaves and new earth; especially in the early spring, for it was the worst then," (Faulkner, 169). The connections to her own death, her own rotting, and the fact that her rotten soul is going to inherently corrupt the very earth from which new life will inevitably spring and the innocence of childhood is immediately corrupted by its very contact with that earth.

The Southern woman found herself turned upside down - like the ravening animals who, when cornered, sometimes eat their young. She is full of psychosis, of fear, of anger and disappointment so horrifically damaging that it causes Eva to burn her own son - Eva's corruption by the land that bore her, the same land that gave birth to Addie, had destroyed the true good and left only the act and the resentment of motherhood, "Is? My baby? Burning?" (Morrison, 48). It is as if in both stories the actors are being that soul-damaged mother who kills her own offspring.


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Compare and Contrast Eva Peace From Sula and Addie Bundren From as I Lay Dying.  (2007, December 1).  Retrieved May 27, 2020, from

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"Compare and Contrast Eva Peace From Sula and Addie Bundren From as I Lay Dying."  December 1, 2007.  Accessed May 27, 2020.