As I Lay Dying, written by William Faulkner, is the story of the Bundren family's venture away from their small farm to a town forty miles away. Many characters tell this story - there are fifteen narrators throughout fifty-nine sections of the book. By using a multiple-voice narrative, Faulkner removes himself from the story. The characters relay the story as they perceive it. The use of multiple perspectives shows the personality of the characters and reveals events from different angles. By structuring the novel in this way, Faulkner effectively illustrates the aspirations and motives of the Bundren family.
At the beginning of the novel, the Bundren family lives on a farm in Mississippi. The family is very poor and Addie Bundren, the mother of five children, is close to death. Cash, her eldest son, is a carpenter who wishes to make a coffin for her. Darl and Jewel, Addie's second and third children, leave upon their father, Anse's, request. Because they are poverty-stricken, Anse sends them away to make three dollars (Faulkner 27). Their mother dies before they return. Unexpectedly, Darl narrates Addie's death, despite him not being present when she dies (Faulkner 49).
After Addie's death, Cash finishes the coffin and the family holds her funeral. Addie's final request is that they bury her body in Jefferson. Anse obliges because he wants to buy a new set of fake teeth (Faulkner 82). The family prepares to embark on this journey. Cash breaks his leg, so Jewel is the one who lifts the coffin into the wagon. He will not join his family in the wagon, however, and defiantly follows behind them on a horse (Faulkner 101).
On the first night of their journey, a storm hits. This destroys the bridge leading over the river. The family attempts to cross the river over a makeshift ford (Faulkner 143). Chaos occurs when a log hits the wagon and knocks out the coffin. Cash re-breaks his leg, and the mules drown. Vernon Tull, a bystander of the disaster, salvages the coffin and wagon from the river (Faulkner 151). Vernon’s wife, Cora, recalls a conversation she had with Addie prior to her death. Cora believes Addie loved her son, Jewel, more than God. Cora also believes Jewel did not return this affection (Faulkner 156).
The next chapter is a flashback – Addie narrates it. Faulkner effectively uses this chapter to provide information that other characters would not know. This is the only chapter that Addie narrates, but she reveals quite a bit through it. Addie describes how she married Anse to please her father, and how she constantly nagged him to “get his hair cut” and “hold his shoulders up” (Faulkner 156). She divulges that she had children for Anse’s...