As I Lay Dying (Faulkner)

Book Reviews
As I Lay Dying uses thirteen narrators to explore the many voices found in a Southern family and community.

In this particular novel, Addie Bundren, the wife and mother to a poor white farm family, is on her deathbed. Friends and family members gather to help ease her pain  and to prepare for her funeral. She is a proud, bitter woman who is ready to die.  She feels her husband is worthless, her neighbors overly-religious and annoying, and of all her children, she only loves her son Jewel. 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 the "true" circumstances of the story.

The conclusion presents a key to understanding the back-ground 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.  This method of narration greatly effects how you encounter the story since a character speaking from his own point-of-view creates a limited but intimate perspective while an omniscient narrator often gives the impression of authorial investment and oversight, yet maintains a distance from the characters.

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. With this complex technique, seamlessly accomplished, we are forced to analyze the information and come to our own understanding.
Southern Literary Review

The tell us that his style is florid, that his plots are hard to follow, that he sometimes shows bad taste in his choice of material.... On the other hand, I can think of no other living American author who writes with the same intensity or who carries us so completely into a world of his own. There is no American author or our time who has undertaken and partly completed a more ambitious series of novels and stories..... Faulkner has been writing a sort of human comedy that was partly inspired by his reading of Balzac.
Malcolm Cowley - New York Times (10/29/1944)

For all the range of effect, philosophical weight, originality of style, variety of characterization, humor, and tragic intensity [Faulkner's works] are without equal in our time and country.
Robert Penn Warren

Faulkner… belongs to the full-dressed post-Flaubert group of Conrad, Joyce, and Proust.
Edmund Wilson

For all his concern with the South, Faulkner was actually seeking out the nature of man. Thus we must return to him for that continuity of moral purpose which made for the greatness of our classics.
Ralph D. Ellison

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