As I Lay Dying: Novel Summary: Sections 41-45
Section 41 Whitfield
When he learns Addie is dying, Whitfield feels guilty over the affair he had with her and decides to go Anse and confess his sins: "all that night I wrestled with Satan" (177). The bridge has been washed away in the torrent but he is nevertheless able to cross. However, he finds out from Tull that Addie is dead, and realizes no one knows about the affair. He interprets this as a divine sign and leaves: "it was He in his infinite wisdom that restrained the tale from her dying lips" (179). Anse never knows.
Section 42 Darl
The wooden-faced Jewel rides ahead to Armstid's farm to borrow a team of mules, and the rest of the family follows. Darl has laid the incapacitated Cash on top of the coffin. Armstid offers them the house for the night but Anse refuses, and they stay in the shed. He eventually accepts the offer of supper by saying he was doing it for Addie, who would appreciate it. Jewel tends his horse at first with loving care before hitting it violently on the face with the curry-comb.
Section 43 Armstid
Armstid and Anse discuss a replacement team of mules over whiskey and supper. Armstid tells Anse he can use his mules to continue the trek to Jefferson, but Anse once more refuses. Jewel attempts to find Dr. Peabody to tend to Cash's leg but returns with Uncle Billy who cares for animals instead: "a man ain't no different from a horse or a mule" (185). The following morning Anse rides Jewel's horse to inquire about buying a team of mules. Vardaman fights off the buzzards hopping around his mother's coffin. Lula Armstid repeats "its an outrage," and Darl refuses to help Jewel move the wagon out of the shed. Upon his return from the Snopes, who are characters also found in other Faulkner novels, Anse tells them he has purchased a team to replace the drowned mules by mortgaging his cultivator and seeder, the money Cash was saving to buy a gramophone and some of the money for his teeth. He also said he sold Jewel's horse. Shell-shocked, Jewel rides away but Eustace Grimm brings the mules in the morning, Jewel having relinquished the horse to the Snopes.
Section 44 Vardaman
Vardaman continues to watch the buzzards circling above as the family continues their journey: "now there are seven of them, in little tall black circles" (194). Darl suggests Dewey Dell sell Cora Tull's cake in Mottson which they will reach the following day.
Section 45 Moseley
In Mottson, Dewey Dell walks barefoot around a drugstore and catches the owner Moseley's attention. After he asks if he can help her, he is shocked to learn she is looking for something that will cause an abortion: "me, a respectable druggist that's kept store and raised a family and been a church-member for fifty-six years in this town" (202). She tells him that Lafe told her she could find help for the ten dollars he gave her at the drugstore, and Moseley suggests she marry Lafe. After Dewey Dell leaves, Moseley's assistant informs him that the Mottson marshal had a run-in with Anse earlier concerning the stench from the wagon. It's now been eight days since Addie died, and the people in the town stand looking at this strange cortege, holding handkerchiefs to their faces. The assistant also tells Moseley that one of the sons was seen buying cement to set his brother's leg.
The textual italics which begin in Section 42 isolate what Darl thinks about Jewel while the non-italicized text refers to the other members of the family. Here Darl's mind alters between both. This lack of concentration or focus, or, others might argue, intense concentration and focus might suggest madness. Once again, readers should consider Darl is mad.
The odd procession progresses. The uncomplaining Cash, whose father refuses to leave him in Armstid's bed, is in bad shape. He is vomiting because of the intense pain, which is intensified by the moving wagon. He can only stretch out on top of the coffin in which Addie's body continues to decay now at an even more rapid rate thanks to the river water. Jewel gives up his horse despite his intense love for the animal but he realizes this sacrifice is the only way to get his mother to Jefferson.
If possible, Vardaman is becoming even stranger. As the ever-increasing number of buzzards continue to circle above, he attempts to understand that if, as he believes, his mother is a fish and Jewel's mother is a horse, what then does that make Jewel and himself? This seems like the ultimate comedy of errors.
Once more, Faulkner provides an objective and thus reliable narrator in the character of Moseley the drugstore owner who informs readers about Dewey Dell's half-hearted attempt to get an abortion. Truly, she is a na�ve, barefoot seventeen year-old with ten dollars in her pocket from a guy that, as Moseley says, is more than likely long gone. Also, his assistant's report provides insight into what this normal American town thinks of these very weird people carting around their mother's rotting eight-day-old corpse. In addition, the run-in with the drug store owner and the Mottson sheriff sets the tone for the upcoming climatic scenes of the Bundrens' arrival, finally, in Jefferson.