full title As I Lay Dying
author William Faulkner
type of work Novel
genre Satire of heroic narrative; rural novel; comedy; tragedy
time and place written 1929–1930; Oxford, Mississippi
date of first publication October 6, 1930
publisher Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith, Inc.
narrator The narration is in the first person, though it is split between fifteen different characters
point of view The point of view shifts between the fifteen different narrators, each with a unique personal interpretation and reaction to the events of the novel
tone Varies from narrator to narrator: tragic, comic, calm, hysterical, emotional, detached
tense Mostly present, occasionally past
setting (time) 1920s
setting (place) A rural area in fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi
protagonist Darl Bundren
major conflict When transporting the recently deceased Addie to her burial site, the Bundren family struggles against the forces of nature and injury in its river-crossing and the aftermath. The Bundrens struggle internally as Darl begins to question the logic of carrying Addie’s body all the way to Jefferson.
rising action As the Bundrens depart on their journey to bury Addie, they find the bridges are washed out, forcing them to ford the river. In the process, the team of mules is lost, and the slowness of their journey means that Addie’s corpse begins to rot.
climax Darl burns down a barn where the family has stored Addie’s coffin for the night
falling action Addie is buried; Darl is apprehended by officers from a mental asylum; Anse Bundren remarries
themes The impermanence of existence and identity; the tension between words and thoughts; the relationship between childbearing and death
motifs Pointless acts of heroism; interior monologues; issues of social class
symbols Animals; Addie’s coffin; tools
foreshadowing Kate Tull’s prediction that Anse will remarry quickly foreshadows Anse’s rapid remarriage after Addie’s burial; warnings and hesitation on the part of certain characters hint that the river-crossing will be disastrous.