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About as I Lay Dying

About as I Lay Dying

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Published by jle5352

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Published by: jle5352 on Mar 14, 2010
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07/26/2010

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About
 As I Lay Dying
Faulkner drafted
 As I Lay Dying
in six weeks while he was working the night shift at a power plant. Helater said, "I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set downthe first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall." Heclearly succeeded in what he set out to do:
 As I Lay Dying
is a work in which Faulkner's talent is fullywithin his control, and the result is one of the twentieth century's finest and most beloved novels.Unlike
The Sound and the Fury,
 
 As I Lay Dying
has a clearly delineated plot line: it is the tale of a journey, and despite the many delays in that journey, nothing impedes the straightforward movementof the plot toward its destination--the arrival in Jefferson and the burial of Addie Bundren's body.However, the way the story is presented embodies an experiment in narrative technique that isbrilliantly achieved. Removing himself completely as an author-narrator figure, Faulkner breaks hisstory into fifty-nine separate monologues, each spoken or thought by one of fifteen characters. Thereis no exposition, no description of character or action outside of the way the characters seethemselves, one another, and the events in which they are involved.Like
The Sound and the Fury,
 
 As I Lay Dying
centers upon a single family. It is the often comic, oftengrotesque story of their single-minded effort to carry out their father's promise to his dying wife: AddieBundren wishes to be buried with her family in the town of Jefferson, forty miles away. This journey,delayed by flood and fire and attended by a growing flock of buzzards, takes nine days. Throughouttheir absurd and quixotic ordeal, the family members exhibit a deep respect for their mother's desire,but they also have desires of their own that might be fulfilled by this chance at visiting the town. Thefather, Anse, wants a new set of teeth; the only daughter, Dewey Dell, is pregnant and hopes to get apill to bring on a miscarriage; Cash wants a gramophone; Vardaman, the youngest, wants a toy train. The two remaining brothers, Jewel and Darl, want nothing for themselves, but the journey brings to itscrisis a rivalry that has deep roots in their relationship with their mother.At once ludicrous and profound, the novel shows us a group of people responding to grief and to theloss of the most important person in their lives. At the same time, it illuminates the nature of lovewithin the family and the responsibility that family members have to one another and to themselves.
 For discussion:
 As I Lay Dying
1.Which are the most intelligent and sympathetic voices in the novel? With whom doyou most and least identify? Is Faulkner controlling your closeness to somecharacters and not others? How is this done, given the seemingly equal mode of presentation for all voices?2.Even the reader of such an unusual book may be surprised to come upon AddieBundren's narrative on page 169, if only because Addie has been dead since page48. Why is Addie's narrative placed where it is, and what is the effect of hearingAddie's voice at this point in the book? Is this one of the ways in which Faulknershows Addie's continued "life" in the minds and hearts of her family? How do theissues raised by Addie here relate to the book as a whole?3.Faulkner allows certain characters--especially Darl and Vardaman--to expressthemselves in language and imagery that would be impossible, given their lack of education and experience in the world. Why does he break with the realisticrepresentation of character in this way?4.What makes Darl different from the other characters? Why is he able to describeAddie's death [p. 48] when he is not present? How is he able to intuit the fact of Dewey Dell's pregnancy? What does this uncanny visionary power mean, particularlyin the context of what happens to Darl at the end of the novel? Darl has fought inWorld War I; why do you think Faulkner has chosen to include this information abouthim? What are the sources and meaning of his madness?5.Anse Bundren is surely one of the most feckless characters in literature, yet he alonethrives in the midst of disaster. How does he manage to command the obedience andcooperation of his children? Why are other people so generous with him? He gets hisnew teeth at the end of the novel and he also gets a new wife. What is the secret of 

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