Once when he was very young, Anse got sick from too much heat. Ever since then he tells people that if he sweats he will die. Therefore, he uses this as an excuse for not having to do any work. Instead, he sits on the porch, uttering platitudes and thinking every time something happens, “Was there ere such an unfortunate man.” Even when he makes an effort to help, as when Tull and Cash are finishing the coffin, he is so bumbling that he is more of a hindrance than a help, and he is sent back to the house so as to be out of the way.
Anse is the extreme hypocrite. He seems quite content to carry out the promise to Addie not because it is a promise, and not because of his respect for his dead wife, but, in his words, “God’s will be done . . . now I can get them teeth.” This is the extent of Anse’s feelings. He uses Addie’s death to accomplish his own selfish motives. Furthermore, in order to fulfill his own aims, he will steal money from Cash while Cash lies unconscious with a broken leg, he will force Jewel to sell his horse, and he will forcibly take Dewey Dell’s money. But he will not lift a finger to help anyone else.
But Anse is also a comic figure. He is so ineffectual and so bumbling that he is almost dismissed as an individual. When the water incident and the fire occur, Anse is the bystander, thinking that all these events are just more crosses he must bear before he can get his teeth. But he always generously forgives Addie for the trouble she is causing: “I don’t [won’t] begrudge her.” The irony of the situation is that Anse is constantly indebted to others but refuses to recognize his obligation and excuses himself by his oft-repeated comment, “I ain’t beholden.”