Literature Annotations


Faulkner, William
As I Lay Dying


Genre Novel
KeywordsDeath and Dying, Domestic Violence, Family Relationships, Grief, Mental Illness, Mourning, Narrative as Method, Obsession, Poverty
Summary

Addie Bundren is dying in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. As she dwindles, her five children, husband, a scattering of neighbors and the country doctor move about her. Each is given a chapter named for him or her, to provide evolving and unique viewpoints on Addie's life and death.

When Addie has finally breathed her last, the action begins: Anse, Addie's husband, has promised her that she would be buried in Jefferson with her own family. The nuclear family sets out in their old wagon. Floods, injuries, irrational decisions, disagreements, fire, and the full mental collapse of one of the children plague the journey. Addie is eventually buried in Jefferson, but in the process of getting her there, the reader learns the sweet and the sordid about this poverty-stricken and profoundly dysfunctional family.

CommentaryTypical of Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha tales, this story of the poor rural South spares no one. The dialect and use of language make the reading a bit slow, but the structure of the novel becomes a roadmap for the reader. One unique feature of the story is the multiple viewpoint method of construction. From the first person account of each of the characters the reader sees the life of the Bundren family unfold, with all of the discrepancies and varying perceptions of oral histories, based in each member's particular perspective. The story is at once comic and tragic--a lesson in mankind's ability to survive most anything, and then "get on with living."
PublisherVintage
Edition1987
Place PublishedNew York
MiscellaneousFirst published: 1930
Annotated by Willms, Janice L.
Date of Entry 10/29/96