As I Lay Dying

“My mother is a fish.” (84)

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage International, 1990. Print.

This is my second time reading this book, and this chapter still stands out to me more than any other. It’s curt, absurd, and funny. It’s strange and fitting for Vardaman to make this connection between the fish and his mother, but the “is” makes it seem almost delusional.

 

Jewel’s Wooden Eyes

“Still staring straight ahead, his pale eyes like wood set into his wooden face, he crosses the floor in four strides…” (4)

“Jewel’s eyes look pale wood in his high-blooded face.” (17)

I thought this was an interesting image that gets repeated several times throughout the text. The significance of wood is probably going to become a prominent theme as we continue reading. Why are his eyes described as wooden though? It is a strange and striking concept.

as i lay dying

“A feather dropped near the front door will rise and brush along the ceiling, slanting backward, until it reaches the down-turning current at the back door: so with voices. As you enter the hall, they sound as though they were speaking out of the air about your head”

William Faulkner. As I Lay Dying. (New York: Vintage International, 1985).

From Darl’s point of view, he’s thinking about how voices and whispers carry through the hallways of his house. provides a very graceful depiction of voices, whispers, that are carried through the halls of the house. starkly contrasts that of jewel’s point of view in the previous section. he’s full of anger. his words do not match darl’s descriptions. it is metaphorically compared to a feather that will “rise and brush along the ceiling”. almost no sound, not affecting the movement of anything around it. affected by the slightest of “tilts”. Darl’s description of this scene makes him seem a little more sensitive than his siblings. maybe little more easily affected by the things happening around him?

As I Lay Dying

“A good carpenter. Addie Bundren could not want a better one, a better box to lie in. It will give her confidence and comfort.”

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 4-5.

Addie’s coffin is introduced before her character. This shows the impermanence of life and of identity, and the fact that Addie’s life is mostly defined by her death.

As I Lay Dying

“He touches the quilt as he saw Dewey Dell do, trying to smooth it up to the chin, but disarranging it instead. He tries to smooth it again, clumsily, his hand awkward as a claw, smoothing at the wrinkles which he made and which continue to emerge beneath his hand with perverse ubiquity, so that at last he desists, his hand falling to his side and stroking itself again, palm and back, on his thigh.”

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 52.

This passage illuminates how selfish Pa is, and the “wrinkles” he creates foreshadow the events further on in the novel that are simply means to the end Pa wanted, not in fulfillment of Addie’s wishes as he claims. It also emphasizes his lack of genuine love for his wife, with his hand as “awkward as a claw”, as he attempts to smooth the quilt under her chin. He ends up comforting himself, not for his loss but at the long awaited prospect of finally obtaining his teeth, with his hand “stroking itself” in a way that he could not stroke his wife.

As I Lay Dying: Darl

She will go out where Peabody is…If you just knew. I am I and you are you and I know it and you dont know it and you could do so much for me if you just would and if you just would then I could tell you and then nobody would have to know except you and me and Darl.

William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying (New York: Vintage International, 1985), 51.

In this chapter, Faulker demonstrates more clearly how strangely perceptive Darl is. As narrator, Darl appears to be in multiple places at once. He is somehow back home watching his mother die, going into town with Jewel, and inside Dewey Dell’s consciousness. Here, Darl narrates Dewey Dell’s anguish of wanting to ask Dr. Peabody for an abortion, but lacking the courage to ask him. He begins with “she,” and then his voice seems to become Dewey Dell’s, or at least speak in the same tenor as she does, when he switches to a first-person “I.”