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OLD TESTAMENT VISION
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
TOUR DE FORCE
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
A DISSENTING OPINION
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
LEVELS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
... [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
TESTING ADDIE'S CHILDREN
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
ADVISORY BOARDWe 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
Lawrence J. Epstein, Associate Professor of English
Leonard Gardner, Lecturer, English Department
Beverly A. Haley, Member, Advisory Committee
Elaine C. Johnson, English Teacher
Marvin J. LaHood, Professor of English
Robert Lecker, Associate Professor of English
David E. Manly, Professor of Educational Studies
Bruce Miller, Associate Professor of Education
Frank O'Hare, Professor of English and Director of Writing
Faith Z. Schullstrom, Member of Executive Committee
Mattie C. Williams, Director, Bureau of Language Arts