As I Lay Dying

William Faulkner
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  As I Lay Dying

author  William Faulkner

type of work  Novel

genre  Satire of heroic narrative; rural novel; comedy; tragedy

language  English

time and place written  19291930; 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.