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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary

 

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PLOT ANALYSIS/SUMMARY AS I LAY DYING


SECTION 43: Armstid


Summary

Armstid’s narrative begins while Anse is looking for a mule team. Littlejohn tells Armstid that a levee has broken on the route to Jefferson so that the Bundren's will have to make another detour.

Jewel tries to get Peabody to come for Cash, but since Peabody is too far away, he brings back Uncle Billy, the horse doctor. While Billy is examining him, Cash tries to say something. Dewey Dell is the one who understands him: Cash wants his tools. Darl brings them over and shows them to him, and then places them under the bed so Cash can touch them when he feels better.

Armstid hears sees buzzards circling and hears a commotion near the barn. Vardaman is chasing a buzzard that has landed on Addie’s coffin.

While Anse is away at the Snopses’ buying mules, we find out that in order to buy the mules they would have to go into debt. When Anse gets back he is told about the new detour. He is asked how he could be the team, and reluctantly says: he put a mortgage on his seeder and he took Cash’s money and Jewel’s horse. Anse justifies this by saying that if he had to go without teeth, they could go without something too.

Armstid suggests that they leave Cash at his place to convalesce, but they would not allow it. He offers them a place to stay for the night, but they choose instead to camp down the road. And he offers them food, but they insist on eating food brought from home.

In the morning, the Snopses’ team is brought up, and we discover that Jewel probably was to one to take his horse to them. Armstid assumed that he would have gotten on it and ridden to Texas before he did that, but he says that Anse has a strange kind of power over people.


Notes

The revelation that a levee on the Bundren’s route has broken is no longer tragic: it is pathetic and darkly comical. Each problem that hits them does not make them stronger, it makes the worse. No one finds Anse courageous for trying to fulfill his wife’s dying wish (curse). Anse is stealing from his children, and he is endangering Cash’s life. This trip is appearing like it will be the end of the Bundren's.


SECTION 44: Vardaman


Summary

Vardaman’s section begins with his remark that there are seven buzzards circling. He then tells us that the previous day there were only four.

Cash is in pain. The bouncing of the wagon is making his broken leg worse. He is lying on top of the "box," but Vardaman does not think his mother is in there. He thinks she swam out of the holes that he drilled when she was in the water, because "My mother does not smell like that."


Vardaman tells us that Jewel and his horse have left; although Armstid has told us where the horse is, we do not know where Jewel is. Darl tells Dewey Dell that she will need to sell her cakes in Mottson. The number of buzzards increases to ten and Vardaman says that he will keep them from landing on the box again or on Cash.


Notes

Vardaman’s focus on the buzzards suggests that he too knows how desperate things are. It is clear that Cash is doing much worse, but Cash does not argue, he merely says go on. Cash lying on Addie’s coffin symbolizes the bond between the two of them: death. Cash makes her "bed" and then lies with her on it. The scene of Cash lying on Addie’s coffin is also necrophilic; the son and the dead mother lying together has a haunting similarity to scenes in Edgar Allan Poe’s work.

Darl says to Dewey Dell, "those cakes will be in fine shape by the time we get to Mottson." After this he tells her to sell them. The summer heat is not making the cakes better; obviously, he is talking about her body. Darl thinks she is beginning to show and should try to get the abortion as soon as possible.


SECTION 45: Moseley


Summary

Moseley is a druggist who Dewey Dell approaches for drugs to terminate her pregnancy. She is reluctant to say anything and Moseley must slowly figure out what she wants by asking general questions which narrow the possibilities. When he finally figures out what she wants, he is outraged and tells her to tell her father and get married. Dewey Dell repeats that Lafe had said a druggist would do it, reluctantly, for ten dollars. Moseley still refuses.

Moseley tells us that the second half of this section has been related to him from the sheriff, named Albert. People with handkerchiefs over their noses are running from a wagon. The sheriff stops them and tells them they cannot go through his city. Anse argues that the law cannot tell them where they can or cannot shop. Finally they decide to leave after Dewey Dell returns from "delivering a package," and they get some cement for Cash’s leg. The sheriff tells them that he needs a doctor and if they put cement on the leg it will have to be amputated. They say it will be fine.


Notes

Dewey Dell still cannot speak her problems. Through a complex and tedious process, Moseley is able to eliminate all other possibilities, including "female dope" which is illegal (but he still sells it). For Moseley, the moral line is drawn between illegal drugs and abortion. Dewey Dell is presented as a naive and very scared victim in this. She does and believes too easily what others tell her.

The townspeople provide another moment of comic relief. One cannot but laugh when one sees them running from a rickety wagon carrying an eight-day old corpse in the middle of summer. The moment is brief because it is followed by the sheriff telling them that if the put the cement on Cash’s leg, he will lose it. After the Bundren’s have left, the sheriff and the doctor share a little joke at the Bundren's’ expense. To some degree, we are in the same position as the sheriff and the doctor: we watch the Bundren's’ adventures. If Albert and Moseley are able to find humor in them, we should as well.


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