Faulkner's As I Lay Dying shows Vardaman as a young child attempting to cope with the death of his mother.

We are never told exactly what Vardaman's age, his physical appearance, or his mental capacity is. We learn about him through his own thoughts and actions and through the way others view him. I see him as a child of about five years of age and physically normal. Several inferences about his height ("That boy . . . carrying a fish nigh as long as he is . . ."" and "From behind Pa's leg, Vardaman peers . . ."") and about his general appearance ("a little boy sitting on the seat of the wagon-) support this assumption. His mental age seems to be somewhat below his chronological age. His thoughts are often not coherent. He confuses different lapses of time and different events, jumbling them together, as when he thinks, "And so if Cash nails the box up, she is not a rabbit. And so if she is not a rabbit I couldn't breathe in the crib and Cash is going to nail it up."".

This view of Vardaman coincides with the pattern of his movement (as far as he goes) through the stages of denial, suffering and acceptance of his mother's death. We know that children between the ages of three and six years view death as temporary and feel that the process can be reversed so that the dead can become alive again. At this age, a denial of death takes place. So it is with Vardaman. His first reaction to Addie's death is one of shock and fear. We read about him:.

From behind Pa's leg, Vardaman peers, his mouth full open and all color draining from his face into his mouth, . . . He begins to move slowly backward from the bed, his eyes round, his pale face fading into the dusk like a price of paper pasted on a failing wall, and so out the door.

From here, Vardaman does progress a little beyond the denial stage. The fact that he enters the pain and suffering stage is evidenced when he blames Peabody, the doctor, for his mother's death.