As I Lay Dying Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


As I Lay Dying: Novel Summary: Sections 26-30

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Section 26 Anse
Anse is angry at Jewel because he is disrespectful to the family, particularly to his mother: "I told him not to bring that horse out of respect for his dead ma." Darl laughs as the wagon passes the Tulls' property. Darl is hardly surprised to see Jewel coming up behind the wagon on his horse. He predicted it.

Section 27 Darl
Tull waves to the slow-moving family on the wagon as Darl watches Jewel's approach. They wave back as they pass. Cash realizes that Addie's body will soon begin to smell and worries that the coffin is unbalanced. Darl suggests he tell Jewel. Shortly after, Jewel passes the wagon without a word and his horse kicks mud on the coffin, which Cash immediately cleans with a leaves.

Section 28 Anse
Anse complains about his hard farming life ("it's a hard country on man; it's hard" p.110), but placates himself with the knowledge that he will receive his reward in heaven. After driving all day the Bundrens reach Samson's farm in the early evening. He informs them that the river has risen so much that the bridge is flooded. Anse keeps focused on the new set of teeth awaiting him in Jefferson.

Section 29 Samson
The farmer Samson sits on his porch with MacCallum and Quick as the Bundrens pass. Quick runs after them and tells them the bridge has collapsed, and they return to talk to Samson who offers them a place for the night. They refuse supper and sleep in the barn. Samson's wife Rachel believes it's outrageous that Addie's body is being dragged all over the county. She breaks into tears. Samson sees a buzzard in the hallway and in the morning he avoids the Bundrens.

Section 30 Dewey Dell
The family is now faced with finding a new way to transport Addie to Jefferson. Dewey Dell thinks of her mother and recalls a nightmare like "a black void," in which she couldn't see or feel anything. It felt like cool silk being dragged across her legs. Instead of continuing on to New Hope, which is only three miles away, to bury Addie, the Bundrens go back and once more pass Tull's lane where the farmer, "little across the field behind the plow," waves once more (122).

As a parent, Anse is absolutely clueless. He condemns Jewel and thinks he has no respect for his mother, but Jewel is completely heartbroken, just incapable of showing his feelings. He rides his horse because the feelings he has for his horse simulate what he feels for his mother. Anse doesn't understand this. Anse will soon sell Jewel's horse so the family can continue their journey. He always makes a fuss when help is offered because he doesn't, he claims, want to be beholden to anyone. However, the contrary is true.

Readers wonder at this point why Darl is laughing as he sits next to his mother who lies dead in her coffin. Is it any wonder people think that he is mad? Let's see. He's surrounded by a secretly pregnant girl who hates him, a mentally deficient boy who thinks his mother is a fish, a wooden-faced brother riding a spotted horse in circles, a good for nothing father who is set on a new set of teeth, a hobbling brother who sprouts numbers and a mother who has been dead for four days-all this in Mississippi in July. Maybe he's laughing because it's so absurd or maybe he's caught on to the reason Addie made the request to be buried in Jefferson when she could have been buried a mere three miles from home in New Hope.

Samson, like Cora, Tull and Peabody, is another reliable narrator. We see through him and his wife how normal people see the Bundren procession and how helpless they feel to prevent it because of Anse's pig-headed attitude. They even volunteer to send men ahead to dig a grave for Addie so she could be buried in the morning in New Hope. The significance of the town's name is self-evident. At first Samson thinks the Bundrens are on their way back from burying Addie. After all, it's been four days since her death. The family, however, seem to live in a different world and they are intent on making the journey. Anse wants his new teeth, Vardaman his toy and Dewey Dell her abortion. Samson's wife is right. It's outrageous and someone needs to do something. And Darl will, soon enough.


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