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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary

 

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AS I LAY DYING CRITICISM/ANALYSIS


SECTION 46: Darl


Summary

The wagon pulls up to a place where they need to get some water to mix the cement for Cash’s leg. Darl tells Dewey Dell to borrow a can, by Anse, like always, says, "I wouldn’t be beholden." Darl mentions that Cash is bleeding to death, but Cash still plays the role of the hero and says, "I can last it out," since he is led to believe that they will be in Jefferson the next day. Dewey Dell returns with the water and they put the cement on Cash’s leg.

The section ends with Jewel’s return, silently and on foot, and with "pale rigid eyes in his high sullen face." Jewel gets in the wagon and then Anse tells everyone to get out and walk because they are coming to a hill.


Notes

Although Anse claims repeatedly to be in no one’s debt, he is in everyone’s debt. Anse wants to feel superior by claiming self-sufficiency, wants to appear honorable by fulfilling Addie’s request, and wants to enjoy food. But Anse cannot afford these things, so he must borrow and steal with his hands while denying it with his mouth.

Cash refuses to leave his mother even though he is bleeding to death and in great pain. It is hard to see his actions as noble any more. While the construction of the coffin may have been an artistic gift to his mother, his actions now are self-destructive and pathetic. He is not a hero but a person who refuses to deal with reality.

Jewel returns, and his eyes again recall the augured wooden coffin. However, Jewel is not allowed on the wagon. As soon as he gets on, he must get off. He is not allowed a reunion with Addie having already given up his other mother, the horse.



SECTION 47: Vardaman


Summary

Vardaman’s section takes place while he, Dewey Dell, Jewel, and Darl are walking up the hill. He counts the buzzards again and now there are only five. He alludes again to the train in the store window in Jefferson that Dewey Dell has told him about. He asks Darl where the buzzards go when the wagon is in the barn at night, but Darl does not answer. Vardaman decides that tonight he will try to find where they go.


Notes

Since Vardaman alludes to the train again without ever having seen it, we can infer that the train has become the goal of the trip. The purpose cannot be to bury Addie because she swam away when the coffin was in the water. The train is the what he has focused on.

Vardaman’s other focus is the group of buzzards that follow them. While Vardaman probably knows that buzzards look for carrion, he may not know that the carrion that they are following is Addie and Cash.


SECTION 48: Darl


Summary

Darl says to Jewel, "Your mother was a horse, but who was your father?" Jewel’s response indicates that he suspects or fears something too: "You goddamn lying son of a bitch."

The scene shifts to Cash whose leg looks even worse and infected, yet Cash still tries to play the long-suffering hero.


Notes

We don’t know how much Darl knows, how he knows it, or if he just suspects something, but his question and his earlier comment about Addie’s deceit suggest that he observes people well.

Jewel’s response that Darl is "lying" indicate either that he has heard these rumors before or that he suspects something. Otherwise, the question would be rhetorical or a joke, not an offense.


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