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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary

 

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AS I LAY DYING-FREE BOOKNOTES


SECTION 35:Vardaman


Summary

Vardaman’s account of the wagon accident in the river is mostly Vardaman calling to Darl to "save her." He tells Darl to catch her because she is a fish and is much more adept in the water than on land and can swim faster than people. According to Vardaman, Darl comes close to rescuing Addie’s coffin, but at one point Vardaman says that "Darl was strong and steady holding her under the water." Finally Darl comes out of the water but he does not have the coffin with him.


Notes

Faulkner cleverly gives Vardaman the account of Darl’s supposed rescue of Addie’s body. The way that Vardaman states it, Darl actually seems to be trying to get rid of the body by submerging it. When Darl leaves the river, it appears that this Quixotic adventure may be over.


SECTION 36: Tull


Summary

Tull focuses on Cash during the accident. Cash tries to keep the wagon and coffin balanced, but in the end gets thrown under. Cash cannot swim but is saved because he grabs hold of Jewel’s horse. Jewel has fallen off the horse when he went back to the wagon to help.


Notes

The rivalry between Cash and Jewel continues.


SECTION 37: Darl


Summary

Darl recounts the events after they have all reached the shore. Cash is unconscious on the shore. Jewel and he have made it to the shore. Vernon, Jewel, and Vardaman spend the entire section looking for Cash’s tools. The phrase repeated about Cash in this section is: "if ever was such an unfortunate man."

Anse says that this is a trial that he does not begrudge Addie, but it is his children who seem to be suffering the most. Dewey Dell wipes the vomit off Cash’s mouth with the hem of her dress.



Notes

It is important to note that Darl does not mention Addie’s corpse. While we are told in detail which of Cash’s tools are saved and where in the water they were, we are not told if Addie’s coffin was rescued. Darl does not seem very invested in getting his mother to Jefferson. He would happily be done with this trip.

The loss of Cash’s tools is a symbolic emasculation. Cash cannot be the hero if he does not have his weapons; for Cash, the tools with which he made Addie’s coffin are his weapons. It takes his brothers and a neighbor to find them; at best, Cash is a compromised hero. Dewey Dell takes on the role of Mary Magdalene when she wipes the vomit from his mouth.


SECTION 38: Cash


Summary

Cash’s section consists solely of the lines, "It wasn’t on balance. I told them that if they wanted to tote it and ride on a balance, they would have to."


Notes

Cash is delirious, but still maintains his devotion to balance and line. It is clear that no amount of balance would have helped them cross the river, but Cash still adheres to a belief system which posits a way. For Cash, the rules of carpentry are his religion. The answer always lies in "balance" and "line"; if things are unbalanced or out of line, they are doomed. Cash assumes as well that if they are balanced and on line, then they will succeed.


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