As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner Online Book Summary
We live in our own cells even while acting in unison with others to achieve a common goal-a goal as simple as moving a body about 40 miles to a cemetery. The 59 interior monologues that make up the novel are clear demonstrations of the cells in which individuals live. "Man is free and he is responsible, terribly responsible," Faulkner told an interviewer in 1959. "His tragedy is the impossibility-or at least the tremendous difficulty-of communication. But man keeps on trying endlessly to express himself and make contact with other human beings."
This is a theme of great importance to Addie,
for whom words are "just a shape to fill a lack." "Words go straight
up in a thin line, quick and harmless," she says, while "doing goes
along the earth, clinging to it...." In various ways,
Anse, Cora, and Whitfield exemplify the emptiness of words when compared with action. On the other hand, the most inarticulate character in the novel, Jewel, is all motion. He expresses himself through action, not words.
Each of the novel's 15 narrators has a perspective on reality that may or may not be accurate. Is Darl sane or insane? Is Vardaman's mother a fish? Is Addie's sin, as Cora says, the sin of pride, and the log that struck the wagon "the hand of God"? Does Anse have some feeling, a lot of feeling, or no feeling toward Addie? Since Faulkner provides no narrator to help you sift through the various characters' perceptions, you are left to draw your own conclusions.
Readers have also identified several secondary themes in As I Lay Dying. Among them are the following.
These two groups are at odds throughout the novel, from the "rich town" lady's rejection of Cora's cakes to Dewey Dell's seduction by the slick druggist's assistant in Jefferson.
Darl, the unwanted son, is obsessed with Jewel, the favorite son, from the first sentence of the novel almost to the end.
Some characters have this power, some don't. After reading As I Lay Dying, you might want to rank the characters according to their ability to act. Most readers would place Jewel at the head of the list, Anse at the bottom.
Some of the characters have this ability, some can only talk about it. Perhaps more than anyone, Addie and Jewel have this power-one which Jewel, by saving his mother twice, merges with his power to act. As the Bible would have it, he does "not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
It is a source of tension between men and women, an antidote to loneliness, and a method of achieving immortality. Addie lives on through her children and through children who, like Dewey Dell's, are yet unborn.
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TheBestNotes Staff. "TheBestNotes on As I Lay Dying".
. 09 May 2017