Posted in Fiction

William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying

It’s remarkable and odd and completely real how determined the Bundren family is to get Addie, their dead wife and mother, buried in Jefferson, Mississippi – a journey of at least a few days depending on what types of hell or high water they might encounter.

They come to a turn in the road with a sign pointing to New Hope. The Bundrens, in their mule-driven wagon and coffin in tow; however, role right on by – literally and probably metaphorically. They will “endure” all the way to Jefferson.

The Bundrens tend to not see (or smell) themselves the way others see (or smell) them. In spite of each member of the family having their own wishes and desires and interests and in spite of various secrets and dysfunctions, they all have the same determination in regards to getting Addie buried. There’s not a lot of love – or at least what would traditionally be considered love – between them. This determination is probably the closest they will come. Cash has his tools, Jewel has his horse, Dewey Dell – the daughter – has a heart-breaking secret, Vardaman has his fish. I’m not sure what Darl has but he eventually ends up in “Jackson” which is where Benjy Compson in The Sound and the Fury ends up.

And Anse, the father, has his additional motives for the journey, that leads to the novel’s shockingly funny ending.

As I’m finding out in reading Faulkner, he uses numerous points of view. Each of the family members take turns telling the story including Addie. It’s also interesting that in the middle of one character’s narration, another character will interrupt via italics. A film version was made by James Franco in 2013 that utilizes (and also clarifies) this technique very well.

And then there’s the actual writing itself – the way words are put together:

The breeze was setting up from the barn, so we put her under the apple tree, where the moonlight can dapple the apple tree upon the long slumbering flanks within which now and then she talks in little trickling bursts of secret and murmurous bubbling. I took Vardaman to listen. When we came up the cat leaped down from it and flicked away with silver claw and silver eye into the shadow.

This novel is ranking up there as a favorite and Faulkner continues to intrigue me. But I feel like there’s so much more to learn.

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