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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

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Ana Gomez

on 21 May 2014

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Transcript of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

In depth analysis of : "As I Lay Dying" by William Faulkner
Cristobal Alvarez
Ap English IV

Thesis Statement

As Paul Ricoeur States "Self-knowledge only comes through the relation to the world and the life with and among others in that world."
Historical Knowledge
Author Background

William Faulkner (1897-1962)
Born in Oxford, Mississippi
Wrote Novels, short stories, plays, poetry, essays and screenplays
One of the most important writers in American and Southern Literature
Winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature (1949) and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (1955,1963)
Four of his books are on the 100 best English Language novels of the 20th Century.
Characters
Plot synopsis
In the fictional county of Yoknapatawpha, Mississippi, The Bundren family take the recently deceased Addie Bundren to Jefferson to bury her there as her death wish. Throughout the trip, the Bundren's face physical and mental obstacles as each of them take turns narrating the story in a stream of consciousness manner.
Novel Background

As I Lay Dying was published in 1930
1930’s contained the stock market crash, the great depression, Dust bowl, and the beginning of WWII
book takes place in Yoknapatawpha county Mississippi during the 1920's
Considered one of the best books of the 20th century
Faulkner claimed to have written the novel from Midnight to 4:00 AM over the course of six weeks and was not edited.
Title derives from The Odyssey book XI where Agamemnon speaks to Odysseus

“As I lay dying, the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyes as I descended into Hades." “

The novel utilizes a stream of consciousness writing style.


Addie Bundren
Wife to Anse, lover to Minister Whitfield and mother of Darl, Cash, Dewey, Vardaman, and Jewel.

Addie hates the role of being a woman, children, religion, and Anse. The only thing she does not hate is Jewel.
Anse Bundren
Husband to Addie and father of Darl, Cash, Dewey, and Vardaman.

Anse blames his bad luck on the supernatural. Anse is also
Cheap, lazy, and selfish. His motivation to go to Jefferson is not out of his love for Addie, but for a pair of new teeth and a new wife.
Darl Bundren
The most intellectual character in the book, Darl is aware of many things that other character's do not know of such as Dewey Dell's pregnancy and the fact that Anse is not Jewel's father.

Throughout the story, Darl commits a lot of actions that seem crazy to the other characters in the novel, but his actions are justified whenever he narrates the story.
Cash Bundren
The oldest Bundren child. Cash is a carpenter who makes his mother's coffin right in front of her as his final gift to her. Cash is a perfectionist and a very logical person who doesn't dwell into emotions. The chapters he narrates are given as lists.

Cash breaks his leg on the way to Jefferson but tries to keep it a secret. Cash's motivation to go to Jefferson was so he could buy more tools
Jewel Bundren
Addie's Favorite child, Jewel is a man of very few words. Jewel is different from his siblings and only Darl knows he is an illegitimate child and constantly torments Jewel about it. His alienation from his family is evident as he only narrates one section

Jewel's motivation for going to Jefferson is to fulfill Addie's dying wish.
Dewey Dell Bundren
The only girl in the family, Dewey Dell feels outshone by her brothers. As her mother is dying, Dewey Dell realizes she is pregnant. Dewey Dell fears that Darl will tell the family that she's pregnant and has dreams she murders him.


Dewey Dell's motivation for going to Jefferson is for her to get an abortion, but the only way the doctor will give her the medication is by having sex with him
Vardaman Bundren
The youngest Bundren child, Vardaman is about 8 years old and is struggling to cope with his mother's death. The way to cope with the death of his mother is by comparing her to fish and imagining that she's still alive in her coffin.

Because he doe not completely understand the situation, Vardaman's narrations are neutral.
Minister Whitfield
The local minister who is a hypocrite, often disobeying the rules of Christianity.

Bundren Family Tree
Other characters:

Vernon Tull - The Bundren's neighbor, sends Darl and Jewel away for a job right before the death of Addie.

Cora Tull - Vernon's wife, a devoted Christian

Peabody - Local Doctor,

Lafe - Farmer and Father of Dewey Dell's child.

Gillespie - Farmer that gets his barn burned down by Darl

MacGowan - Pharmacist that makes Dewey Dell have sex with him for the abortion medicine.


Figurative Language

Tone
Questions
1. Do you believe that the trip to Jefferson to bury Addie was familial duty or familial love?

2. The role of woman in "As I Lay Dying" has negative connotation, do you believe it is done satirically?

3. From what you've learned about the book so far, would you consider the book as dark comedy or Southern Gothic?

4. Do you agree with Paul Ricouer's statement about perception?

5. Do you think it's ironic that Darl, the most articulate character in the novel is deemed crazy by others?
Addie Bundren is dying

Dewey Dell is pregnant

Jewel and Darl make a delivery for Vernon

Verdaman returns with the fish
Addie Bundren dies

Jewel and Darl comeback

Cash finishes the coffin

Addie's funeral
The Bundren's leave to Jefferson

They attempt to across the flooded river

Cash breaks his leg
Bundren's arrive at the town of Mottson

Dewey Dell is denied abortion medication

Cash's leg gets a makeshift cement casket
Bundren's stay the night at Gillespie's farm

Darl burns down the barn in an attempt to cremate his mother

Jewel saves the coffin
Bundren's arrive in Jefferson

Darl is taken to an asylum

Dewey Dell has sex with the local pharamacist for abortion medicine
Anse gets new false teeth

Anse presents his new wife


As I Lay Dying is a novel written in a stream of consciousness style with multiple narrators. The book has 15 narrators over the course of 59 sections.

Examples of different perceptions and the effect on diction:

It talks up to us in a murmur become ceaseless and myriad, the yellow surface dimpled and monstrously into fading swirls travelling along the surface for an instant, silent, impermanent and profoundly significant, as though just beneath the surface something huge and alive waked for a moment of lazy alertness out and into light slumber again. - Darl
My mother is a fish. - Verdaman
The cow nuzzles at me, moaning. "You’ll just have to wait. What you got in you ain’t nothing to what I got in me, even if you are a woman too." - Dewey Dell
"God knows, it’s a trial on me. Seems like it ain’t no end to bad luck when once it starts. - Anse
"Get the goddamn stuff out of sight while you got a chance, you pussel-gutted bastard. You sweet son of a bitch," - Jewel

Symbolism
Cash: a dark spin off representation of Jesus. Cash is a carpenter who sacrifices his needs and wants throughout the story, but all his sacrifices are for nothing but Anse's new teeth and wife.

New Hope Church: A church named New Hope appears on the Bundren's trip to Jefferson but at this point the Bundren's have very little hope left and things begin to go from bad to worse after they pass the church. An example of things becoming worse are the infection of Cash's leg and the rotting smell of Addie's body getting stronger.

Eyes: Eyes are frequently mentioned in the book and are the means of interpreting how a character is feeling mentally. An example is Darl being aware of Dewey Dell's pregnancy only by looking at her eyes and knowing that Jewel is not Anse's child just by looking at his eyes.

Bundrens also is spelled similarly to Burden
Tone: Morbid Irony/Dark Humor

"My mother is a fish." is proves that the tone is Morbid Irony/Dark Humor as it ensues hilarity, poignant that it's the thought of a child processing the death of his mother, and yet it has a saddening effect on the overall tone.

Another part of the book that proves the tone is the ending. When the Bundren's finally bury Addie, the family ends up being even more separated, Darl ends up in an asylum, Anse gets a new pair of teeth and a wife, Cash breaks his leg and doesn't get his tools, Jewel fulfill his mother's wish but at the cost of his horse, Dewey Dell didn't get her abortion and got raped, but one good thing is that Vardaman got to see the trains.

Setting
As I Lay Dying takes place in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi during 1920’s also known as the roaring 20’s.

Mississippi setting gives the characters a stereotypical rural area people mentality

People are unaware of the paradigm shift occurring around them
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