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Ah, love. Love is so often a theme in many a well-read novel. In the story, As I Lay Dying, one very important underlying theme is not simply love, but the power to love. Some of the characters have this ability; some can only talk about it. Perhaps more than anyone, Addie and Jewel have this power- one which Jewel, by saving his mother twice, merges with his power to act. As the Bible would have it, he does “not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

Jewel, Addie’s son by Whitfield, is 18 years old. Like Pearl, the product of Hester Prynne’s adulterous affair in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, Jewel’s name is a symbol of the value his mother places on him. The favoritism that Addie showed him is responsible for the antagonism between him and Darl. Jewel personifies Addie’s preference for experience over words. He is always in motion. He expresses himself best through actions. When he verbalizes his love for Addie- in his single monologue- he does so with a violent fantasy about hurling down stones on outsiders. Elsewhere, he expresses his love for her through deeds, not words.

While Addie lies dying on her corn-shuck mattress, Darl convinces Jewel to take a trip with him to pick up a load of lumber. Darl knows that Jewel is Addie’s favorite child. The trip for lumber is a contrivance- Darl’s way of keeping Jewel from his mother’s bedside when she dies. A wheel breaks on the wagon, and before Darl and Jewel can replace it, bring the wagon home, and load Addie’s body onto it for the trip to Jefferson, three days have passed. By this time, heavy rains have flooded the Yoknapatawpha River and washed out all the bridges that cross it. The river is vicious, and the Bundrens’ mules drown. The wagon tips over, and. Jewel, on horseback, manages to keep the wagon and its load from drifting downstream, saving his mother?s decomposing body. When the family finally makes it through the ordeal, they spend the night at the Gillespies’ farm. Darl sets fire to the barn where Addie’s body is stored in an effort to spare his mother. However, Jewel once again saves her coffin with a heroic act.

Twice, Jewel personifies the power of love through his laudable acts. Even though his mother has already died, he still keeps her wish – being buried with her family- alive. He goes to endless extents, even risking his own life, to make sure that her requests are maintained. He is unlike the other characters in the novel, because he does not simply speak about love, but he in fact shows his love through his actions. He holds the power to a very true, god-like love for his mother.


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