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As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner




Nothing so permeates the tone and texture of the story as does the spirit of the Old Testament. The themes, the attitudes, and frequently the very words and prose rhythms derive from the written account of the "pre-Christian" experience. Specifically, the story as a whole has strong overtones of the Book of Job. Salvation, religiosity, tribal solidarity, the importance of sex as an almost religious act- these and other Old Testament themes assert themselves.... Above all, there is the brooding Old Testament spirit of despair, hope, endurance- tensions as old as mankind- with which man faces the darkness and mystery of the world around him.

Philip C. Rule, "The Old Testament Vision in As I Lay Dying," in Religious Perspectives in Faulkner's Fiction, 1972


The use of a wide range of viewpoints gives moral as well as narrative perspective, offers scope for rich ironic effects, and broadens the sense of social reality.... The technique of the novel represents, of course, a tour de force of conception as well as of execution, and in his determination to avoid any authorial intrusion Faulkner perhaps allowed a certain dilution of the tensions arising from the internal psychological dramas of his major characters... On the other hand, the book as it stands offers a vivid evocation of the widening circle of impact of the Bundrens' adventure, an effect which harmonises with the circular and radiating techniques of the book as a whole and with its recurring images of the circle, from the circling buzzards to the wheels of the wagon itself.

Michael Millgate, The Achievement of William Faulkner, 1978


After the reader has marveled at Faulkner's experimentations in As I Lay Dying, there is no need to be stricken into critical silence by it. The total effect is disappointing; the inadequacy of the characterizations fails to arouse our sympathies and compassions; the ending makes us feel as though we had been tricked into caring at all; the artistry seems glib when compared with the uses of the same technical procedures in [Faulkner's] The Sound and the Fury; and the total idea moves us even less than the total action.... As I Lay Dying has been too highly praised by too many critics.

Lawrance Thompson, William Faulkner: An Introduction and Interpretation, 1963


... [Each] private world manifests a fixed and distinctive way of reacting to and ordering experience. Words, action, and contemplation constitute the possible modes of response, while sensation, reason, and intuition form the levels of consciousness. All of these combine to establish a total relationship between the individual and his experience; for certain of the characters in As I Lay Dying, however, this relationship is fragmented and distorted. Anse, for example, is always a bystander, contemplating events and reducing the richness of the experience to a few threadbare cliches. In contrast, Darl, the most complex of the characters, owes his complexity and his madness to the fact that he encompasses all possible modes of response and awareness without being able to effect their integration. It is Cash, the oldest brother, who ultimately achieves maturity and understanding by integrating these modes into one distinctively human response which fuses words and action, reason and intuition. In short, the Bundren family provides a focus for the exploration of the human psyche in all its complexity....

Olga W. Vickery, The Novels of William Faulkner, 1964


As I Lay Dying is a fable not only about Addie's quest for salvation but about the testing of three sons by the ordeals of water and fire. Their crossing of the flooded river with the mother's corpse is the first test.... Darl came out of the water with empty hands, Cash with the horse (the substitute for the mother), and Jewel with the prize-the coffin. The rescue of the coffin may be interpreted in two ways: it signifies the living mother that Jewel saves, and it signifies the love that Jewel retains. Cash and Jewel sacrificed what they loved: Cash his tools, Jewel his horse. Cash's sacrifice was returned, but Jewel's was accepted. Darl had nothing to sacrifice.

Melvin Backman, Faulkner: The Major Years, 1966

[As I Lay Dying Contents]


We wish to thank the following educators who helped us focus our Book Notes series to meet student needs and critiqued our manuscripts to provide quality materials.

Sandra Dunn, English Teacher
Hempstead High School, Hempstead, New York

Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Suffolk County Community College, Selden, New York

Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
State University of New York at Stony Brook

Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
National Council of Teachers of English Student Guide Series
Fort Morgan, Colorado

Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Tamalpais Union High School District
Mill Valley, California

Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
State University of New York College at Buffalo

Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
State University of New York College at Geneseo

Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
State University of New York at Buffalo

Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio

Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
National Council of Teachers of English
Director of Curriculum and Instruction
Guilderland Central School District, New York

Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts
Chicago Public Schools, Chicago, Illinois

[As I Lay Dying Contents]



Backman, Melvin. Faulkner: The Major Years. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1966. -

Barth, J. Robert. Religious Perspectives in Faulkner's Fiction. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1972. -

Blotner, Joseph. Faulkner: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1984. -

Brooks, Cleanth. William Faulkner: The Yoknapatawpha Country. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963. -

Collins, Carvel. "The Pairing of The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying," Princeton University Library Chronicle, XVII (1957), 114-123. -

Dickerson, Mary Jane. "Some Sources of Faulkner's Myth in As I Lay Dying," Mississippi Quarterly, XIX (1966), 132-142. -

Howe, Irving. William Faulkner: A Critical Study. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975. -

Millgate, Michael. The Achievement of William Faulkner. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1978. -

Ross, Stephen M. "'Voice' in Narrative Texts: The Example of As I Lay Dying," PMLA, 94 (March 1979), 300-310. -

Schmitter, Dean Morgan. William Faulkner. New York: McGraw Hill, 1973. -

Thompson, Lawrence. William Faulkner: An Introduction and Interpretation. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1963. -

Vickery, Olga W. The Novels of William Faulkner: A Critical Interpretation. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1964. -



    1926 Soldiers' Pay
    1927 Mosquitoes
    1929 Sartoris
    1929 The Sound and the Fury
    1931 Sanctuary
    1932 Light in August
    1935 Pylon
    1936 Absalom, Absalom!
    1938 The Unvanquished
    1939 The Wild Palms
    1940 The Hamlet
    1942 Go Down, Moses
    1948 Intruder in the Dust
    1951 Requiem for a Nun (partly a play)
    1954 A Fable
    1957 The Town
    1959 The Mansion
    1962 The Reivers
    1973 Flags in the Dust (uncut version of Sartoris)


    1931 These 13
    1934 Doctor Martino and Other Stories
    1949 Knight's Gambit (The title story, the length of a short novel, is sometimes counted as a novel.)
    1950 Collected Stories
    1955 Big Woods
    1979 Uncollected Stories of William Faulkner


ECC [As I Lay Dying Contents] []

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