‘As I Lay Dying’ Review

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Michael Parke, Staff Writer

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Another trip to the library brought me to the shelf filled with his texts. Because I just read Margaret Mitchell’s novel, I decided to read some more Southern literature. I borrowed As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner, a Southern Gothic piece about the Bundrens’ journey to bury the mother.

    Addie Bundren is alive for a short period of time then dies and is put into a handcrafted casket made by Cash, one of her sons. Vardaman and Darl are her two other boys; Anse is her husband; Dewey Dell is her daughter. The family then has to go to Jefferson where she supposedly wants to be buried. However, the bridge spanning the river is broken due to a raging river, so the journey takes over a week. By this time each character reveals why they really come on the journey. The end is strange.

    This is my first time reading anything by Faulkner, and I can honestly say that it took me a little longer than usual to read the one hundred and seventy-eight pages in the Library of America edition. This is probably because of his use of stream of consciousness style paired with the switch between multiple characters all looking at each other and telling the same story. It was a bit overwhelming after reading stories with a stable narrator. There are some peculiarities too. For example, I don’t know why Jewel’s mother is a horse, nor do I know why Vardaman says “My mother is a fish.” (I don’t think either matters, but these are the statements that swam in my brain the entire time.) The book became more enjoyable once I organized the characters and their quirks though.

    Concerning the novel’s potential audience, I expect that it will appeal to those who like James Joyce of Virginia Woolf. I know for sure that Dubliners, by James Joyce, could draw up some comparaisons for its use of multiple viewpoints on a certain topic, though Faulkner explores deeper parts of each Bundren. His other works that connect this story to the larger narrative of Yoknapatawpha, his fictional county in Mississippi, can be recommended of course. Jewel does get a horse from the Snopes, so I’d recommend the Snopes trilogy. Actually, it’d be a good idea to read any of his books.

    Overall it was a bit boring. Stream of consciousness can have that quality sometimes. The characters are well developed, though Vardaman did get on my nerves. (His mother’s not a fish!) I don’t recommend the film because from what little I saw and the ratings it looks bad. My first dabble in Faulkner was lukewarm, but I hope readers will find this enjoyable.

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‘As I Lay Dying’ Review