Literapedia Book Notes for

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner


  • Addie Bundren (Ch. 1)— wife of Anse Bundren and mother of Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. Her death triggers the action of the novel.
  • Anse Bundren (Ch 2)— head of the Bundren family, Anse is a poor farmer
  • Darl Bundren (ch 1)—the second Bundren child, Darl delivers most of the monologues in the novel and is more expressive and sensitive than his brothers, sister, or father.
  • Jewel (Ch. 1)— the bastard son of Addie and Whitfield, the minister. He is very proud and independent.
  • Cash Bundren (Ch. 1)— the eldest Bundren child, Cash is a carpenter and builds Addie's coffin. He is very selfless.
  • Dewey Dell Bundren (Ch. 7)— the only Bundren daughter, Dewey Dell is 17 years old and has just fond out that she is pregnant.
  • Vardaman Bundren (Ch. 8)— the youngest of the Bundren children, Vardaman likens his mother's death to his gutting of a fish.
  • Vernon Tull (Ch. 1)— the Bundren's nieghbor, he is wealthier than the Bundren family and hires Darl, Jewel, and Cash to do odd jobs.
  • Cora Tull (Ch. 2) Vernon's wife who stays by Addie's side in her last few hours of life
  • Lafe (Ch. 14) the father of Dewey Dell's unborn child, Dewey Dell muses on Lafe a lot throughout the novel although he never directly appears. Lafe gives Dewey Dell ten dollars for an abortion.
  • Whitfield (Ch. 18)— the local minister and father of Jewel who resolves to tell Anse that he is Jewel's father but never does it.
  • Peabody (Ch. 11)— the extremely overweight doctor from town who attends to Addie and Cash
  • Samson (Ch. 29)— the farmer who hosts the Bundrens on the first night of their journey and is critical of them
  • Armstid (Ch. 43)— the farmer who hosts the Bundrens on the second night of their journey and tries to lend Anse a team of mules
  • Moseley (Ch. 45)— the pharmacist who refuses Dewey Dell an abortion and lectures her
  • MacGowan (Ch. 55)— an employee at the Jefferson drugstore who elicits a sexual favor from Dewey Dell in exchange for a fake abortion treatment
  • Gillespie (Ch. 49)— the man whose barn is set ablaze by Darl.

Chapter Summaries

  1. Darl- Jewel and Darl walk through a field to where Cash is sawing a coffin for Addie.
  2. Cora- Cora saves eggs to bake cakes but the buyer renegs once Cora has already made the cakes. Cora recalls Addie’s talent for baking cakes.
  3. Darl- Anse, Vernon, and Darl are on the back porch. Jewel rides a horse and then feeds it hay.
  4. Jewel- Jewel expresses his dislike at Cash's sawing of the coffin right at the house where everyone can hear and see it.
  5. Darl- The family discusses Darl and Jewel making a delivery trip for Tull, who will pay them three dollars, while Addie is on her deathbed and it is decided that they may go as long as they are back by the next day at sundown.
  6. Cora- Cora expresses distaste for Darl and Jewel going into town and Jewel possibly "denying his dying mother the goodbye kiss." Cora commends Darl on his character.
  7. Dewey Dell- Dewey Dell recalls her relationship with Lafe while Darl stands in the doorway and says goodbye to Addie. Darl predicts that Addie will die before he and Jewel return.
  8. Tull- Tull tries to relieve Anse of his lingering reservations about Darl making the trip.
  9. Anse- Anse muses that God intended men to "stay put like a tree or a stand of corn" and blames the road put in near his house for all his bad luck.
  10. Darl- Darl recalls confronting Dewey Dell about her relationship with Lafe to Jewel and repeats his prediction that Addie will die before he and Jewel return home.
  11. Peabody- Peabody, the doctor, goes to check on Addie during a cyclone.
  12. Darl- Addie dies and Cash hastens work on her coffin. Darl somehow knows, although he is away with Jewel, that Addie has died and tells Jewel this.
  13. Vardaman- Vardaman cries over his mother's death, accuses Peabody of killing her, and whips Peabody's horses until they run away.
  14. Dewey Dell- Dewey Dell thinks about her pregnancy and how much Peabody could help her if only he would while walking in the barn, where she finds Vardaman
  15. Vardaman- Vardaman is disturbed by the thought that his mother will be nailed in a coffin to be buried and compares her to the fish he cut up earlier.
  16. Tull- Tull comments on the Bundren's bad luck and on life and death in general. He says that Darl needs a good wife. Vardaman shows up soaking wet at the Tull's door talking incoherently about a fish. Tull, Cora, and Vardaman return to the Bundren home and nail shut Addie's coffin. Vardaman bores holes in the coffin.
  17. Darl- Darl reflects on a scene in his mind of Cash, Anse, Vernon, and Peabody putting Addie into the finished coffin.
  18. Cash- Cash explains the construction of the coffin.
  19. Vardaman- Vardaman comments that his mother is a fish.
  20. Tull- Tull describes Addie's funeral, and how she is laid in her coffin upside down to make room for her flare-bottom wedding dress.Cash and Tull talk about how Cash broke his leg falling from the top of a church. Addie's funeral service starts and Cash and Tull stay outside on the back porch.
  21. Darl- Darl and Jewel get delayed on their way home and Darl comments that he cannot love his mother because he has no mother while Jewel's mother is a horse.
  22. Cash- Cash tries to explain to Jewel why the coffin will not balance while Jewel curses at him to pick up the coffin anyway.
  23. Darl- Anse, Cash, Darl, and Jewel lift the coffin and carry it out of the house, while Jewel curses them all.
  24. Vardaman- Vardaman asks if since Jewel's mother is a horse, his is too. Anse gets angry that Cash and Dewey Dell plan to fulfill other obligations on the trip to Jefferson to bury Addie.
  25. Darl- Anse tells Darl that Jewel is disrespectful for not coming with them to bury Addie, but Darl says Jewel will catch up to the wagon.
  26. Anse- Anse complains that Jewel is disrespectful even to his own mother while Darl laughs as Jewel approaches the wagon.
  27. Darl- Jewel, on horseback, passes the wagon and his horse kicks up a clump of dirt onto the wagon, which Cash clears off.
  28. Anse- Anse comments that a farmer's life is unfair and arrives at Samson's farm only to realize the bridges have flooded.
  29. Samson- Samson puts up the Bundrens for a night and stays in bed the following morning until they have left.
  30. Dewey Dell- Dewey Dell muses on the relationship between her and the males in her family. The Bundrens turn around and go back up Tull's lane.
  31. Tull- Tull follows the family to a levee and refuses to let them use his mule.
  32. Darl- Darl recalls a time when Jewel, as a teenager, worked in secret by night and bought himself a horse to the ire of Anse.
  33. Tull- Tull, Anse, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman cross the sunken bridge.
  34. Darl- Anse's mules drown while Darl and Cash take the wagon along the river to the ford.
  35. Vardaman- Vardaman panics at the prospect of the coffin being washed away after seeing Cash lose grip of it.
  36. Tull- Tull chastises Anse for the disastrous bridge crossing situation.
  37. Darl- Cash washes up on the riverside and vomits while the others search for his tools in the water.
  38. Cash- Cash recalls telling the family that the coffin was unbalanced and how to fix it.
  39. Cora- Cora remembers how Addie felt for Jewel significantly more love than she felt for God.
  40. Addie- Addie recounts her life occurrences and comments on the emptiness of words.
  41. Whitfield- Whitfield resolves to confess about his and Addie's affair, but upon arriving at the Bundrens discovers she has died and is at peace with the secret.
  42. Darl- The family goes to Armstid to recover briefly and accept supper.
  43. Armstid- Cash's broken leg is set and Anse buys a team of mules with money gained from mortgaging his farm equipment, some money that Cash was saving to buy a gramophone, some money from his own false teeth fund, and trading away Jewel’s horse.
  44. Vardaman- Vardaman sees buzzards in the sky circling the wagon.
  45. Moseley- Moseley refuses to sell Dewey Dell an abortion treatment claiming that he is a churchgoing man and tells her to marry Lafe.
  46. Darl- Darl and Dewey Dell set Cash's leg with cement and the family approaches a hill they must climb on foot.
  47. Vardaman- Vardaman wonders where buzzards go at night and resolves to look for some that night.
  48. Darl- Darl asks Jewel about his father, but Jewel refuses to answer.
  49. Vardaman- Anse, Darl, and Jewel move Addie's coffin into a barn. Later, Vardaman sees Darl set fire to the barn. He tells Dewey Dell who says to keep it a secret.
  50. Darl- Jewel tries to save the horses and mules in the burning barn and to recover the coffin.
  51. Vardaman- Cash's foot has turned black from the cement cast, Jewel's back has burned, and Darl weeps on Addie's coffin.
  52. Darl- The Bundrens are approaching Jefferson. Dewey Dell changes into her Sunday dress.
  53. Cash- The family buries Addie in Jefferson. Becuase Gillespie has threatened to sue the Bundrens for his burned barn, the family must send Darl to a mental institution. He resists, but Dewey Dell subdues him. He then laughs uncontrollably on the ground.
  54. Peabody- Peabody treats Cash's leg and says he might never walk again.
  55. MacGowan- MacGowan, pretending to be a doctor, gives Dewey Dell a fake abortion treatment and tells her to meet him in the cellar.
  56. Vardaman- Vardaman waits in the town square for Dewey Dell to exit the drug store. Walking home, Dewey Dell repeats that "it" will not work.
  57. Darl- Darl is dragged to the mental institution and maniacally refers to himself in the third person.
  58. Dewey Dell- Anse takes Dewey Dell's ten dollars from her.
  59. Cash- Anse leaves his children waiting on a corner and returns to them with a new set of false teeth and a woman holding a gramophone on his arm, telling his children to "meet Mrs. Bundren."

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