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Free Study Guide-As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

SECTION 56: Vardaman

Summary

It is night and Vardaman is with Dewey Dell on the way to the drugstore. He thinks about Darl being sent on the train to Jackson and then thinks about the train in the store window. Dewey Dell tells him that he will get it for Christmas. She tells him to wait outside the store gives him a banana. He thinks again about Darl and how his brother is crazy. A cow then walks down the street, lowing. The cow leaves and then Dewey Dell comes out of the drugstore. She tells him that "it aint going to work." Vardaman does not know what she is talking about and wants to go see the train. She suggests bananas instead and he accepts.

Notes

Vardaman has been told that Darl is crazy and that he is going to Jackson by train. Vardaman thus makes the simple association that "going to Jackson" is what one does if one is crazy. Vardaman has looked forward to seeing and having a toy train. The train becomes his connection with Darl. His mother is a fish and his brother is a train.

Dewey Dell agrees out of desperation to MacGowan’s treatment. When it is over, she realizes that she was deceived, but there is nothing she can do. She was able to get revenge on her brother, but not on MacGowan. Despite having been hiding the truth of her pregnancy from her family, she now realizes that she too can be deceived.


The cow walking down the street while she is having sex recalls the section (14) where she is in the barn and has the highly eroticized encounter with the cow. The presence of the cow in this scene functions like a bad joke on Faulkner’s part: he knows that the reader will get that MacGowan and Dewey Dell are having sex, but having the cow walk down the street while it happens offscreen functions like a rocket blasting off or a train entering a tunnel to connote "corny" sex.

SECTION 57: Darl

Summary

Darl’s narrative is in the third person, but the section is written to suggest that Darl has separated from himself, that he is narrating and acting "crazy." The "I" that asks questions in this section is the guard, but it is clear that this is not the guard narrating. Darl’s laughs and says "yes yes yes yes yes."

We do find out that Darl was in France during World War I. Darl makes a comment that money is incestuous because it has "a face to each backside and a backside to each face." Darl then narrates again what he cannot know, that his family is eating bananas. The section ends with him sounding like Vardaman: "Darl is out brother . . . yes yes yes."

Notes

Faulkner wants Darl to sound crazy or to sound like he is acting crazy. Darl is laughing like he did when he was arrested, so one should consider that the responses of yes are responses to Cash’s feeling that maybe incarceration is better. A laughed "yes" is cannot be taken seriously. Darl could well be saying that "no," being locked up is not the best thing for me. It may be the better thing for society, but not for me.

The brief mention to Darl in France during the war makes us think whether Faulkner is trying to give us a clue to his personality. Did his experiences in war give him that look that everyone says it weird and different? Why does Faulkner wait until the very end to mention it if it is not important?

Darl’s reasoning that money is incestuous is another thing that Faulkner throws in at the end of this novel. A crazy man can say these things, but in literature the "crazy man" is frequently given the lines of deepest truth (in King Lear, Lear is most accurate when he is crazy and it is his fool who teaches Lear the "truth"). If Darl says that money is incestuous as an aside, Faulkner wants the reader to notice it and think about what it means. Faulkner intentionally does not explain himself: this aside the reader must figure out. Does money create interactions that are "immoral"? What is the relationship between money and taboo sexuality?

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