Hannibal Free Public Library
As I Lay Dying
April 28, 2008
I Lay Dying centers upon a single family.
It is the often comic, often grotesque story
of their single-minded effort to carry out
their father's promise to his dying wife,
Addie Bundren, who wishes to be buried with
her family in the town of Jefferson, forty
miles away. This journey, delayed by flood
and fire and attended by a growing flock of
buzzards, takes nine days. Throughout their
absurd and quixotic ordeal, the family
members exhibit a deep respect for their
mother's desire, but they also have desires
of their own that might be fulfilled by this
chance at visiting the town. The father, Anse,
wants a new set of teeth; the only daughter,
Dewey Dell, is pregnant and hopes to get a
pill to bring on a miscarriage; Cash wants a
gramophone; Vardaman, the youngest, wants a
toy train. The two remaining brothers, Jewel
and Darl, want nothing for themselves, but
the journey brings to its crisis a rivalry
that has deep roots in their relationship
with their mother.
Born in 1897, William Faulkner and his family soon moved to the university town of Oxford, Mississippi, where he was to spend most of his life. His first novel, Soldiers' Pay, was published in 1926. His first undisputed masterpiece, The Sound and the Fury, came out in 1929 and was followed by another masterpiece, As I Lay Dying, in 1930. With the publication of Sanctuary in 1931, Faulkner was invited to write scripts for MGM and Warner Brothers, which he continued to do for twenty years. Light in August (1932) was his first attempt to engage the rending racial issues of the South, an effort continued most successfully in Absalom, Absalom! (1936) and Go Down, Moses (1942). Until the appearance of Malcolm Cowley's The Portable Faulkner in 1946, Faulkner had been seen as a regional writer; afterward, critical assessments began to register the major stature of his work.
In addition to several collections of short fiction, his other novels include Pylon (1935), The Unvanquished (1938), The Wild Palms (1939), The Hamlet (1940), Intruder in the Dust (1948), A Fable (1954), The Town (1957), The Mansion (1959), and The Reivers (1962). Faulkner won the Nobel Prize in 1950 and was awarded France's Legion of Honor in 1951. In the 1950s he became a spokesman for the growing movement against racism in the South. He died of a heart attack on July 6, 1962.
discussion questions adapted from http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780679732259