Parisian Literary Salon

creating community through reading and discussing literature

As I Lay Dying

- by William Faulkner

“He had a word, too. Love, he called it. But I had been used to words for a long time. I knew that that word was like the others: just a shape to fill a lack; that when the right time came, you wouldn’t need a word for that anymore than for pride or fear.” –As I Lay Dying

Published in 1930, As I Lay Dying uses thirteen narrators to explore the many voices found in a Southern family and community. Addie Bundren, the wife and mother to a poor white farm family, is on her deathbed… As her last wish, she requests that her husband bury her among her family in the town of Jefferson. And so, upon her death, her family, for the most part begrudgingly, follows through with her wish. We hear from everyone involved in the journey, including Addie from the grave—a testament to Faulkner’s creation of an environment so believable that such outrageousness is allowed. The humor is dark. You might not expect to laugh at the image of a dead women’s corpse falling from a casket into a river—but you will.

Faulkner used multiple narratives, each with his or her own interests and biases, to create a puzzle that readers could piece together from the ‘true’ circumstances of the story. The conclusion presents a key to understanding the background to the central event in a way that traditional linear narratives simply cannot accomplish. With that said, in As I Lay Dying, all of the narrators are believable, even Addie who is dead when we hear from her…The most brilliant aspect of this novel is how Faulkner carefully weaves bits and pieces from the many narrative voices, thereby creating a rich tapestry of often conflicting and competing perspectives.