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As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary


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SECTION 57: Darl


Darl’s narrative is in the third person, but the section is written to suggest that Darl has separated from himself, that he is narrating and acting "crazy." The "I" that asks questions in this section is the guard, but it is clear that this is not the guard narrating. Darl’s laughs and says "yes yes yes yes yes."

We do find out that Darl was in France during World War I. Darl makes a comment that money is incestuous because it has "a face to each backside and a backside to each face." Darl then narrates again what he cannot know, that his family is eating bananas. The section ends with him sounding like Vardaman: "Darl is out brother . . . yes yes yes."


Faulkner wants Darl to sound crazy or to sound like he is acting crazy. Darl is laughing like he did when he was arrested, so one should consider that the responses of yes are responses to Cash’s feeling that maybe incarceration is better. A laughed "yes" is cannot be taken seriously. Darl could well be saying that "no," being locked up is not the best thing for me. It may be the better thing for society, but not for me.

The brief mention to Darl in France during the war makes us think whether Faulkner is trying to give us a clue to his personality. Did his experiences in war give him that look that everyone says it weird and different? Why does Faulkner wait until the very end to mention it if it is not important?

Darl’s reasoning that money is incestuous is another thing that Faulkner throws in at the end of this novel. A crazy man can say these things, but in literature the "crazy man" is frequently given the lines of deepest truth (in King Lear, Lear is most accurate when he is crazy and it is his fool who teaches Lear the "truth"). If Darl says that money is incestuous as an aside, Faulkner wants the reader to notice it and think about what it means. Faulkner intentionally does not explain himself: this aside the reader must figure out. Does money create interactions that are "immoral"? What is the relationship between money and taboo sexuality?

SECTION 58: Dewey Dell


Anse sees her ten dollars and takes it. She says that it was not hers, that it was the money she got for selling Cora’s two cakes. Dewey Dell says that if he takes it he will be a thief and he reacts by saying that he has fed and sheltered her and given his children everything they could ever ask for and "my own daughter . . . calls me a thief over her mother’s grave." He asks where she got it, but she will not tell. He tells her he will pay it back. She calls him a thief again and so he repeats that he has always given his children what they wanted "without stint" and that Addie was lucky to be dead now that her children were acting like this. The section ends with Anse leaving with the money.


Anse stoops to the lowest possible rung of humanity: he takes money from his daughter while stating that he was the most generous of fathers and attempts to make her feel guilty by evoking her recently deceased mother while he is courting another woman. Dewey Dell is now pregnant and penniless. Her father will have new teeth and a new wife soon; her future looks bleak.

SECTION 59: Cash


Anse, Cash, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman are in the wagon. Jewel says that they should take Cash to Peabody’s before returning the shovels but Anse says no. They stop in front of the future Mrs. Bundren’s house; Jewel and Vardaman both volunteer to return the shovels but Anse insists that he be the one to return them. Cash listens to the music coming from the graphophone and thinks how nice and relaxing it would be to have one. After quite a while, he returns and they take Cash to the doctor while Anse gets a shave. That evening Anse dresses up and tells the children he has business to attend to.

The next morning Anse says he needs to do something else and for them to meet him at the corner. When they get to the corner, they see Anse coming, looking differently, and holding a suitcase. Dewey Dell and Vardaman stop eating their bananas and notice that he has his new teeth. When Anse arrives, they see behind him a "duck-shaped" woman whom he introduces to them as the new Mrs. Bundren, who is carrying a portable graphophone.

Cash thinks for a moment that it is too bad that Darl will not be there to enjoy the music, but then thinks that "this world is not his world; this life his life."


The novel ends on a seemingly happy note, but it is happy primarily for Anse: he has new teeth and a new wife (who is noticeably more wealthy than he). Cash does get access to the graphophone that he has wanted, but at the expense of his leg. Darl is locked up. Vardaman’s horse is still missing. Dewey Dell is further along in her pregnancy now is penniless. Vardaman has bananas but no train or fish.

It is interesting to note that the new Mrs. Bundren is compared to a duck, especially since ducks eat small fish. One could easily see this as suggesting that the new Mrs. Bundren is a threat to Vardaman.

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