As I Lay Dying: Novel Summary: Sections 21-25
Section 21 Darl
When he spies vultures circling the Bundren house, Darl tells Jewel that it's not his horse that's dead. Jewel's hat is broken from the rain and his face looks wooden. Jewel curses his brother "Goddamn him. Goddamn him (96)." Darl realizes that he cannot love his mother because he no longer has a mother and that Jewel's mother is a horse.
Section 22 Cash
Cash attempts to explain to Jewel why the coffin remains unbalanced. Not wanting to hear it, Jewel answers, "pick up. Goddamn you, pick up" (96).
Section 23 Darl
The Bundren men carry Addie's coffin out of the house while Jewel continues to curse and Cash to make excuses for why the coffin is unbalanced. Jewel is the energy behind the men's movements. He is desperate to leave. Cash hobbles on his painful leg. Anse backs off and Jewel almost lifts the coffin into the wagon by himself, cursing all the while.
Section 24 Vardaman
Vardaman is excited about going to Jefferson. He remembers the toy train and his sister guarantees him that it will still be there. The store owner, she assures him "won't sell it to no town boys" (102). Jewel will not stop even though Anse calls him repeatedly. Darl says that Jewel's mother is a horse which confuses Vardaman because since he and Jewel are brothers that means his mother must be a horse too. Darl says that's not the case. Cash brings his tools to work on Tull's barn on the return trip. Anse says to do so is disrespectful. Dewey Dell carries a package of Mrs. Tull's cakes to sell in town.
Section 25 Darl
Darl waits with his father as Jewel heads quickly to the barn. Anse is upset that Jewel is not coming with the family to bury Addie's body. Cash says they should leave Jewel behind but Darl assures them that Jewel will catch up. Dewey Dell, whose dress is becoming tighter, sets the basket down in the wagon and the Bundrens set off to bury Addie's body. Darl sits nearby laughing.
Readers are torn in these sections between laughing and crying, and consequently an interesting sort of disquieting tension emerges. It's strange, it's grotesque, but it's also fascinating-black comedy at its finest.
Cash continues to be associated with numbers, giving the exact length he fell when he fell off the church and broke his leg. Later on, he will break the same leg again. Because Cash hobbles, the coffin is unbalanced. Is Cash perhaps unbalanced himself? Is this the only way he can relate to the world? Even his plan to work on the Tulls' barn suggests Cash is interested in making money, or cash. Predictably, the unbalanced coffin will cause problems later on.
Jewel, who is associated with physical action in opposition to Darl who is associated with words and thoughts, is once again described as "wooden," in Section 21. In section 22, he is described as constantly moving, as if unable to stop. He is extremely anxious and cannot find the words to express his grief and so moves seemingly without direction. Darl's statement that Jewel's mother is a horse suggests Jewel's devotion to his horse mimics the love he feels for his dead mother. But Jewel is also at times violent towards the horse. Was Addie violent with her children? Darl theorizes that since he no longer has a mother, he cannot love his mother. Here the perceptive Darl begins to recognize on some level that his mother Addie rejected him in favor of Jewel even when he was in the womb.
Anse reveals himself as quite a hypocrite. He becomes indignant because Cash thinks of working, i.e. making money immediately after the funeral, and because Dewey Dell plans on selling Cora Tull's cakes, yet he begrudges anything and anyone who costs him a dime.