From Vardaman’s accusation of Peabody to Vardaman’s statement that his mother is a fish


Vardaman runs out of the house and begins to cry. He sees the spot on the ground where he first laid the fish he caught, and thinks about how the fish is now chopped up into little pieces of “not-fish” and “not-blood.” Vardaman reasons that Peabody is responsible for Addie’s death and curses him for it. He jumps off the porch and runs into the barn. Still crying, Vardaman picks up a stick and begins beating Peabody’s horses, cursing them and blaming them for Addie’s death, until they run off. He shoos away a cow that wants milking, and returns to the barn to cry quietly. Cash passes by and Dewey Dell calls out, but Vardaman continues to cry in the dark.

Dewey Dell

Dewey Dell is again thinking of her union with Lafe and of the pregnancy that has resulted. She thinks, with some bitterness, of how much Peabody could do for her, if only he would. Outside, Cash continues sawing the wood to make Addie’s coffin. Dewey Dell begins to prepare a supper of greens and bread, but does not have time to cook the fish that Vardaman has caught. Cash enters the kitchen, announcing that Peabody’s team of horses has gotten loose. Anse, Cash, and Peabody begin eating. They invite Dewey Dell to eat with him, but she leaves to look for Vardaman, who is missing. Dewey Dell runs up to the barn, where the cow needs to be milked, but she tells it to wait. Dewey Dell walks among the stalls, repeating Lafe’s name to herself. She finds Vardaman hiding in a stall and accuses him of trying to spy on her. Dewey Dell shakes Vardaman violently before sending him away, then returns to her thoughts of Peabody, and how he may be able to help her.


Vardaman stares at the coffin. He is disturbed by the thought that Addie is going to be nailed shut inside of it.


Tull remembers how he and Cora found out Addie was dead when Peabody’s team of horses showed up at his door. It is raining when Tull goes to sleep, and the storm is getting worse when he is woken up by a knock at the door. He finds Vardaman there, soaking wet and covered in mud. Vardaman talks incoherently of the fish that he caught earlier. Tull goes out to harness the team, and returns to find Cora and Vardaman sitting in the kitchen. Vardaman is still speaking about his fish. Cora, Tull, and Vardaman make the journey back to the Bundren house, and Tull helps Cash finish building the coffin. Just before daybreak, they place Addie in the coffin and nail it shut. The next morning, they find the coffin bored full of holes and Vardaman asleep next to it. Inadvertently, Vardaman has bored two of the holes through his mother’s face. Throughout the chapter, Tull notes that Vardaman’s inexplicable behavior is God’s judgment upon Anse’s failures as a father and husband. At dawn, Cora and Tull return home.


Darl, still away on the delivery with Jewel, is able to see what is happening far away at his home. He sees Cash and Anse working to complete the coffin. It begins to rain. Cash, though soaked, continues working. Cora and Tull arrive. Cash sends Anse away, and Cash and Tull make a push to complete the coffin. Just before dawn, Cash finally finishes his task. Anse, Cash, Peabody, and Tull carry the coffin inside. As Darl watches this scene, he reflects that he does not know whether he “is” or not, whereas Jewel knows that he “is” because he does not question his own existence.


Cash very precisely lists the logic behind his decision to make the coffin on a bevel, or a slight slant.