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June 9, 2017

5

As I Lay Dying

by N@ncy

 

Plot dilemma:

  1. What to do with a dead body?
  2. Addie, the mother is dying and wants to be buried in
  3. Jefferson Mississippi cemetery, 40 miles away.
  4. Timeline: 10 days (8 days traveling on dangerous backwoods road)

Point of view:

  1. 15 narrators
  2. 59 interior monologues
  3. No 3rd person all-knowing narrator
  4. So we are not sure if the points of view of others are reliable!

The Family:

  1. Anse is the husband and is full of country wisdom.
  2. He thinks his luck has changed when the road came to his house!
  3. Addie is the mother who is dying.
  4. All her life she has tried to break through the wall of isolation.
  5. She never finds any meaning in her grinding existence.
  6. Jewel is the favored son, the illegitimate son.
  7. He wants his mother entirely for himself.
  8. Cash is the practical carpenter son.
  9. He express his love for Addie in deeds. (builds her coffin)
  10. He does not need the word love.
  11. He is Addie’s eldest son and keeps a closeness with her
  12. …that excludes father Anse.
  13. Darl is the son who is denied his mother’s love.
  14. His thoughts and ‘6th sense’ take up 30% of the book!
  15. Dewey Dell is the  unwed pregnant daughter.
  16. She thinks about the  unborn child…
  17. ‘I feel like wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.’
  18. Vardaman is the unhinged youngest son.
  19. He has no idea what death means.
  20. He drills holes in the coffin so mother can breath.
  21. When the body starts to stink and decay his famous line is:
  22. “Mother is a fish.”
  23. This is not a family you will forget!
  24. Dr. Peabody (family doctor) reflects on death.
  25. It is Faulkner’s definition of death.
  26. “…death is a function of the mind and that of the minds of the  ones
  27. who suffer the bereavement.
  28. The nihilst says it is the end,
  29. the fundamentalist (religious fanatic)
  30. the beginning when in reality it is
  31. …no more than than a single  tenant
  32. or family moving out of a tenement or town.”

The journey:

  1. Addie wants to be buried ‘with her people’.
  2. A pilgrimage begins…to get the coffin to  Jefferson Mississippi.
  3. Irony: family risks life and limb not to save the mother
  4. ….but to bury her.
  5. The crossing of a  flooded river is like crossing the river in Hades!
  6. As I Lay Dying is often called a humorous epic.
  7. It is a hopeless quest to reach the cementery!
  8. Darl looks at the mules who must pull the wagon with the coffin.
  9. He gives us an idea of the wisdom of animals…
  10. “…in their eyes a wild, sad despairing quality as if they had already
  11. seen in the thick water the shape of the disaster
  12. …which they could not speak
  13. …and we could not see.

Modernism:

  1. Faulkner was influenced by Joyce’s use of stream of consciousness.
  2. The character contemplates  complex philosophical ideas.
  3. The most famous example is Darl in chapter 17.
  4. “And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you.
  5.  And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not.
  6. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not.”
  7. It reminds the reader of Shakespeare’s
  8. Hamlet: To be, or not to be–that is the question…” soliloquy.

Names of the sons:

  1. Darl: denied mother’s love…name refers ironically to ‘Darling’.
  2. Jewel: illegitimate…name refers ironically to something precious.
  3. Vardaman:
  4. name refers to Gov Vardaman of Mississippi; called the ‘Great White Chief’ because of his populist appeal to the common man and strong belief in white supremacy.
  5. Cash:
  6. name refers  to W.J. Cash. He was a journalist who  attended school with Faulkner. Cash wrote an important  essay in 1929: The Mind of the South.  In 1930 Faulkner named one of his characters ‘Cash’, chapeau au bas to W.J. Cash.

Conclusion:

  1. I could go on and on about this book.
  2. But you should discover it for yourself.
  3. Each of the 5 children is a product of the ‘Old South’
  4. Social issues are highlighted in the characters:
  5. Lack of education (Dewey has no idea how she got pregnant!)
  6. Mental illness (Cash:’ aint none of us pure crazy…
  7. …aint none of us pure sane.”)
  8. Social class (dirt poor and lazy
  9. …make the Beverly Hillbillies look sophisticated!)
  10. Why did I wait so long to read it?
  11. Faulkner always intimidated me.
  12. I thought he would be too difficult to read.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I was not prepared for Faulkner’s
  2. ….philosophical musings and humor!
  3. This book will make you stop and re-read many parts.
  4. The text is so dense with meaning… truly beautiful writing.
  5. #BestAdvice:
  6. Make sure you know ” who’s who ” in the family before reading.
  7. The chapters are very short and switch back and forth b/t characters.
  8. William Faulkner is on a level far above many writers I have read.
  9. He left me dizzy after reading the book!
  10. He was a southerner and an expert on good drink.
  11. Still he kept his humility.
  12. As a joke her wrote his own epigraph:
  13. “He wrote books and he died.”
  14. This is the best book I’ve read this year!

 

 

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 9 2017

    This is one of the (many) classics still waiting for me. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it so much.

    Reply
    • Jun 9 2017

      William Faulkner is on a level far above many writers I have read.
      He left me dizzy after reading the book!
      He was a southerner and an expert on good drink.
      Still he kept his humility. As a joke her wrote his own epigraph:
      He wrote books and he died.

      Reply

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