Cliff Notes™, Cliffs Notes™, Cliffnotes™, Cliffsnotes™ are trademarked properties of the John Wiley Publishing Company. does not provide or claim to provide free Cliff Notes™ or free Sparknotes™. Free Cliffnotes™ and Free Spark Notes™ are trademarked properties of the John Wiley Publishing Company and Barnes & Noble, Inc., respectively. has no relation. Free Summary / Study Guide / Book Summaries / Literature Notes / Analysis / Synopsis
+Larger Font+
-Smaller Font-

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary


Previous Page | Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version


SECTION 13: Vardaman


Vardaman’s section picks up immediately after he leaves Addie’s room. He runs from the house and immediately thinks of the fish: "It is cut up into pieces of not-fish now, not blood on my hands and overalls." The pronoun the switches to she: "she is getting so far ahead I cannot catch her." Vardaman has completed the fish-mother association, shifting in his mind from fish to not-fish to mother. He also makes the association between Peabody’s arrival and his mother’s death and so he sees Peabody as the one who killed his mother.

Vardaman runs around spasmodically, crying and vomiting, and ultimately ends up in the horse stall but cannot find the horse. Because Peabody is fat and the horse is big, he is look to hurt the horse-Peabody for killing his fish-mother. Vardaman finally finds the horse in the wagon shed and begins striking it and yelling "You kilt my maw!"

He leaves the shed and enters the barn, passing a cow that needs to be milked, but Vardaman tells it that he won’t do anything to help "them." The cow approaches with its "sweet, hot, hard breath," but Vardaman only pushes it away. The cow nudges at him again, moaning, but he then starts running at it and the cow leaves. The barn is now empty and functions for him as a womb image; the barn is described as "warm" and "silent" where he can "cry quietly."

Cash limps, from the injury acquired when he fell off the church, up the hill looking for the horses, and then limps away after Vardaman says that have fled. Vardaman then cries again to himself, saying, "I am not anything." Dewey Dell calls for him but he doesn’t respond, and, according to Vardaman, finds the fish and takes it to cook.

The narrative shifts to a more metaphysical tone. Vardaman says he can hear wood, silence. He then smells cooling flesh and ammoniac hair and sees a splotched hide and strong bones. He feels that there is something familiar about this, and "is different from my is." By the end of this paragraph, Vardaman is clearly talking about the horse. The section ends with the phrase, "Cooked and et."


Vardaman is confused and angry. He does not know how to deal with the deal of his mother, so he lashes out associatively. He attacks Peabody’s horses because the horses represent Peabody whose arrival marks the death of his mother. He avoids the cow, which will represent sensuality to Dewey Dell in favor of solitude. The barn becomes for his a womb where he can reconnect with his lost mother. While in the barn, he drifts into a dream-like state where he smells the silence of wood, which symbolizes the wooden coffin. From the wood he smells the cooling flesh which can be both his mother and the fish; the hair could be the mother or the horse; the splotched hide and bones could be mother, fish, or horse. All of these images come together for Vardaman and reflect his difficulty in separating reality from association.

The "is different from my is" anticipates Darl (section 17). By understanding a difference in being, Vardaman is slowly creating a since of who he is, not much, but a little. He knows that he is not his mother, his is not the fish, and he is not the horse.

SECTION 14: Dewey Dell


Dewey Dell repeats part of her inner monologue from Darl’s section: "He could do so much for me if he just would." She wants Peabody to help her end her pregnancy but cannot ask him.

Part of her fear is that she feels alone. She feels that if she could sense the fetus, she would feel better; then she would not be alone. She follows this with an ambiguous comment that she would let Peabody come between her and Lafe just as Darl has come between her and Lafe.

With the sound of Cash sawing in the background, she puts the bleeding fish pieces in the pan. She thinks how it took Addie ten days to die and then wonders if she is gone dead or if she will wait around until Cash finishes or Jewel arrives.

Cash and Peabody are eating and Anse sits down (but does not eat), but no one can find Vardaman. Dewey Dell sees that the cow needs to be milked and goes out to milk her. When she gets to the barn, the cow addresses her in the same way it did Vardaman: "She nuzzles at me, snuffling, blowing her breath in a sweet, hot blast, through my dress, against my hot nakedness, moaning." The cow follows Dewey Dell into the barn. In the barn, the interaction between her and the cow escalates: "I feel my body, my bones and flesh beginning to part and open upon the alone." As this scene ends, Dewey Dell associates the sweet blast of the cow with wood and silence (like Vardaman).

Immediately after this, Dewey Dell notices Vardaman hiding in the stall. Her reaction to Vardaman suggests that she realizes that her interaction with the cow is not proper: "‘You durn little sneak!’ My hands shake him hard." Vardaman thinks she is shaking him because he let the horses go, so he denies it. She then sends him to the house to eat dinner before Peabody eats everything up and Vardaman repeats that he is the one who killed Addie.

Dewey Dell returns to the cow and tells her that the milk that is causing her pain is nothing compared to the trouble that the fetus that she has in her is causing. The section ends with her telling the cow that she does not know what worry is.


This section associates Dewey Dell with the cow. Not only is her name suggestive of fertility and life, "dew" and "dell," but she is also associated with an animal suggestive of fertility. This section also repeats Dewey Dell’s previous desire to have the abortion. Her difficulty is speaking her problem. Peabody knows her and is local. To ask him to help her could be paramount to telling Anse herself, which is what she specifically does not want.

This section also sets up Peabody as an antagonist: first, for Vardaman, Peabody represents the death of Addie; secondly, for Dewey Dell, Peabody is the "big tub of guts" who could help her but doesn’t. It does not matter that Peabody is responsible for neither problem, he is blamed.

Previous Page
| Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version

As I Lay Dying Study Guide Free BookNotes Plot Summary

Privacy Policy
All Content Copyright©TheBestNotes. All Rights Reserved.
No further distribution without written consent.
128 Users Online | This page has been viewed 12493 times
This page was last updated on 5/9/2017 8:50:03 AM

Cite this page:

TheBestNotes Staff. "TheBestNotes on As I Lay Dying". . 09 May 2017