As I Lay Dying

by: William Faulkner

Dewey Dell

And we picked on toward the secret shade and our eyes would drown together touching on his hands and my hands and I didn’t say anything. I said, “What are you doing?” and he said “I am picking into your sack.” And so it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it.

Here, Dewey Dell describes her sexual experience with Lafe, immediately identifying herself as a naive and easily persuaded young girl. She describes her nervousness, but still she agrees to have sex because she “could not help it.” In her first section of narration, Dewey Dell appears almost frantic as she jumps from thought to thought, clearly preoccupied and without any guidance as she faces her mother’s impending death.

But I know that it is there because God gave women a sign when something has happened bad. . . . I would let him come in between me and Lafe, like Darl came in between me and Lafe, and so Lafe is alone too. He is Lafe and I am Dewey Dell, and when mother died I had to go beyond and outside of me and Lafe and Darl to grieve because he could do so much for me and he dont know it.

Dewey Dell continues her frenzied narration as she announces her pregnancy. In these lines, she demonstrates her distracted mind as she worries about her pregnancy, thinks about Lafe, and laments the fact that Peabody could help her if he just would. She seems to question the existence of Lafe, her pregnancy, and herself as she admits that these distractions even obscure her ability to grieve for her mother.

When I used to sleep with Vardaman I had a nightmare once I thought I was awake but I couldn’t see and couldn’t feel I couldn’t feel the bed under me and I couldn’t think what I was I couldn’t even think of my name I couldn’t even think I am a girl . . .

In Dewey Dell’s disjointed narration in Section 6, she discusses her feelings as the Bundrens continue their trip after the river crossing. Here she describes a nightmare she had where she seemed to lose all sense of herself and her place in the world, revealing a lost sense of existence as she recognizes the oppressive role of being a woman in this society. She especially connects to this dream as she faces the mortality of a pregnancy.

But when we got it filled and covered and drove out the gate and turned into the lane where them fellows was waiting, when they come out and come on him and he jerked back, it was Dewey Dell that was on him before even Jewel could get at him. And then I believed I knowed how Gillespie knowed about how his barn taken fire.

In one of Cash’s narrations, he explains another side to Dewey Dell’s character. In these lines, Cash describes how Dewey Dell was the first to jump on Darl as the men from the mental institution arrived to take him. In these moments, Cash realizes that Dewey Dell told Gillespie that Darl started the fire. Her betrayal demonstrates her desperation as she finds a way to protect her secret.

She looks at me. She dont even blink. “What you want, then?” . . . She don’t even blink her eyes. “I got to do something,” she says. She looks behind her and around, then she looks toward the front. “Gimme the medicine first,” she says.

The pharmacy clerk, MacGowan, narrates how he sets up Dewey Dell to have sex with him under the false idea that he can give her abortion medication. MacGowan’s dialogue with Dewey Dell reveals her desperation as she’s willing to do anything to get the medication and terminate her pregnancy. He delineates how Dewey Dell doesn’t even blink as she declares that she must “do something.”