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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary


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SECTION 20: Tull


Tull, Cora, and some neighbors are discussing Anse’s plans to head to Jefferson and the fact that the bridge to Jefferson will not be passable for much longer. Jewel and Darl are still gone. Anse is dressed in a nice white shirt. It is the day of the memorial service.

Cash has fitted some wooden pegs to fit snugly in the holes Vardaman drilled, and when they finally place Addie in the coffin, they place her in backwards so that her feet are where her head should have been. This is so her wedding dress can fan out in coffin.

Reverend Whitfield arrives and tells everyone that the bridge has washed away. Vardaman gets upset at Cora for cooking the fish and then he goes fishing. Cash tells everyone that he fell "about" twenty-eight feet four and one-half inches. And we are told that Darl and Jewel will arrive after Addie has been dead three days.


Here we can see just how difficult this trip will be and we can see how single-minded Anse is in fulfilling Addie’s last request. While Anse may seem selfless in his devotion here, by the end his honor will be called into question.

Cash is the perfectionist who is working on his masterpiece, his mother’s coffin. Instead of lashing out like Vardaman, Cash invests all of his energies into this product, the coffin, which reveals his deep affection for her. His knowledge of the exact distance that he fell from the church roof supports his identity as a perfectionist.

Vardaman has a fit because Cora is cooking the fish; this means that Addie will be shared with all present, not just the family. His fishing at the end is his attempt to deny that his mother is dead; he is still trying to find her.

The fact that they bury Addie in her wedding dress is symbolic. She is being married to Death; as we will see in her section (40), her people are the dead. Her philosophy is focused on being dead. One could even argue that the white wedding dress is also representative of a white christening dress, and that death, for Addie, is her "coming into being."

SECTION 21: Darl


Darl and Jewel are still on the wagon. Darl’s earlier statements that Addie has died and the buzzards he sees circling convince him that it is his horse that has died. Darl tries to convince him otherwise, but it is useless.

He states that he has no mother and Jewel’s mother is a horse.


Darl has no mother because she is dead, and because he cannot even be sure that he knows who he is to begin with. If Darl does not know who he is, he can not form familial relationships.

Jewel confuses Addie’s death, which Darl’s repeated questions suggests he never understands to begin with, with the supposed death of his horse. Jewel’s confusion between his horse and his mother parallels Vardaman’s confusion between Peabody’s horse and the doctor himself.

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