As I Lay Dying Study Guide (Choose to Continue)


As I Lay Dying: Novel Summary: Sections 6-10

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Section 6 Cora
Cora watches the silent Darl as he enters the house and sits by his dying mother to bid her farewell. Cora compares Darl's kindness to Addie's husband Anse's indifference and her son Jewel's coldness: "Darl was different from those others" (21). Standing in the doorway, Darl looks at his sister Dewey Dell who snaps at him, asking what he wants, and then sadly back to his mother.

Section 7 Dewey Dell
Dewey Dell sits with her dying mother and dreams of a time when she and an itinerant worker named Lafe harvested cotton and she allowed him to make love to her, as a result of which she became pregnant. Dewey Dell nervously asks her brother Darl what he wants because she knows he knows her secret. Darl is saying goodbye to his mother, and informs Dewey Dell that Addie will die before Jewel and he return home.

Section 8 Tull
Tull convinces Anse to allow Darl and Jewel to make the trip. The youngest Bundren child, Verdaman, brings in a fish he caught earlier and Anse orders him to clean it before bringing it to show his mother. The Tulls and their daughters leave as Anse looks down at his dying wife. They are not too optimistic about the future of the Bundren clan. Kate predicts Anse will have a new wife "before cotton-picking" (34).

Section 9 Anse
Anse begins a litany of complaints about the weather, his sons, and the road he regrets putting in because of the bad luck it brought, including Addie's impending death. He also complains about Doctor Peabody: "I take you to witness I never sent for you" (37). The youngster Vardaman comes in covered in fish blood and Anse tells him to wash his hands.

Section 10 Darl
Darl and Jewel have left with the wagon and the sun is going down. Darl remembers questioning Dewey Dell about her encounter with Lafe. "Are you going to tell pa?" she asked Darl repeatedly (40). Darl talks to Jewel about their mother's impending death but Jewel doesn't say a word.

The religious Cora, while not an intellectual giant-she is somewhat simple actually-is an insightful narrator when contrasted with the less objective Bundrens. Cora reveals Darl's strangeness which prompts the question, is he mad? She also reveals Darl's love for his mother and lets readers know that Jewel is Addie's favorite child. Cora also criticizes Addie for her excessive pride. However, readers should not take any comment at face value. They must instead put their own judgment on hold until all voices have been heard.

The only Bundren daughter, Dewey Dell, is pregnant, doesn't know what to do, and is filled with anger that her brother Darl seems to know about her condition. Does Darl have a sixth sense? Can he read people's minds, or is he just so intuitive and perceptive that he can visualize what is happening to the rest of the family?

Darl seems lost in time and space and the reader might find the text troublesome. In section ten, he taunts Dewey Dell as if she was present, but only he and Jewel are on the wagon, and the event in question occurred in the past.

The Bundrens' neighbor, Vernon Tull, the husband of Cora, is another reliable narrator, as is Doctor Peabody, a character who appears in several of Faulkner's novels set in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi. It is Tull who reveals Anse as helpless and manipulative, a man who is the ultimate champion at avoiding work. Tull's comment about the weather foretells events to come. Anse begrudges the money for Dr. Peabody; begrudging is one of his prime characteristics. He wants to get new teeth at all costs and saves every penny he can towards that end. Indeed, this is his primary motivation for making the trip to Jefferson.

Vardaman, who is about thirteen years old and possibly mentally impeded, begins to conflate the dead fish, generally associated with life and rebirth, with his dead mother.


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