As I Lay Dying is Faulkner’s harrowing account of the Bundren family’s odyssey across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. Narrated in turn by each of the family members—including Addie herself—as well as others the novel ranges in mood, from dark comedy to the deepest pathos. Considered one of the most influential novels in American fiction in structure, style, and drama, As I Lay Dying is a true 20th-century classic.
Praise For As I Lay Dying:
“I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall.”
—William Faulkner on As I Lay Dying
“He is the greatest artist the South has produced. . . . Indeed, through his many novels and short stories, Faulkner fights out the moral problem which was repressed after the nineteenth century [yet] for all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must turn to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for greatness of our classics.”
“No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner. If you want to know all you can about that heart and soul, the fiction where he put it is still right there.”
“The chuck, chuck, chuck of the adze,” “one lick less, one lick less,” as Cash methodically builds a coffin in view of his mothers window of which she sees him from.
This service of his, this craftsmanship, the sound of his making the coffin for her to lay in, dominates the narratives for a while, till completion, it has a very methodical presence and a symbolic meaning.
I can’t help thinking of Faulkner in this skilled character, cool and reserved, and relating to his own workplace, these laborings, at the time of writing this novel.
As he did write this during night and day of his twelve hour shift and some how wanted the sweat and labor of man, a son, to dominate in love an expression of meaningfulness for kin in ways due to words couldn’t be conveyed in the Bundren clan between many members as well as Cash.
“The sound of the saw is steady, competent, unhurried, stirring the dying light so that at each stroke her face seems to wake a little into an expression of listening and of waiting, as though she were counting the strokes.”
Cash has a more hypnotic entrance into my reading of this tale his presence and his building of the ark in the form of the coffin they all must travel with has great meaning.
“some time toward dawn the rain ceases. ……”
He is the only one to see others in their true light in the brief times Faulkner writes with his voice, he views acts of his kin as rather no different from any man who all pass a point of sanity or insanity and who is to say who is one of the other and that one can act at times due to other things like jealousy and seem another.
Addie Bundren, the dying and then dead mother of the family, is the main protagonist, due to her weight on the family, her choices, her creation of all the love and the rage, the salvation and loyalty of family, till her burying, she had them under her wings, her presence upon the earth above ground had an melancholic and raging effect on every kin till her burial, many couldn’t face their love and their view of the world her passing made them size up to what their self and worth was about and the rude awakening the shackling of the chains that Addie Bundren was and the foundation she had broken in her passing and so having a profound effect and with Faulkner’s mastery in crafting sentences he brings to you in metaphors and similes with colloquial language and characters, real, just as the hot blood that runs thorough the Bundren clan.
It is all here in the narrative, the great toils and joys of life, great pursuits of happiness in their own morbid sense of becoming, the family pursuit to survive.
Would find a mother who is a fish and then a horse, a man who is owl like, and “montrous burlesque,” a people who are buzzard like, a brother who is snake like, with obscene ferocity and wooden faced, a woman who feels “like a seed in wild in the hot blind earth,” a man who is insane but also not, loving but jealous, the dying viewing words just that are but not that of true actions and meaning,
They will all have there chance to appear in this dark lucid tale of the grotesque and sublime, this family, The Bundrens, in a timeless tale of journeying, a road through flood and fire, like the great stories that came before, but this is not of, is so, if it is, then it is, and was, and so this is now.
Faulkner leaves you tied up in some sentences with some careful deliberation purposely have you draw attention and contemplation to his narrative, i have read this time and gain, a number of times, he wants the reader to be taken into the narrative and the lives of his pastoral world with family, love, and a mans worth taking centre stage.
“Before us the thick dark current runs. It talks up to us in a murmur become ceaseless and myriad, the yellow surface dimpled 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 of and into light slumber again”
“Her peaceful, rigid face fading into the dusk as though darkness were a precursor of the ultimate earth, until at last the face seems to float detached upon it, lightly as the reflection of a dead leaf.”
“The dead air shapes the dead earth in the dead darkness, further away than seeing shapes the dead earth. It lies dead and warm upon me, touching me naked through my clothes.”