Notes for As I Lay Dying – Pages 1 - 25
Darl, pages 3-5
The book opens with Darl and Jewel (brothers) walking up the hill.
Students should get a visual image of the landscape: cotton fields, steep hill,
house on the bluff, barn.
Vernon Tull and Cora Tull are neighbors, here to visit Addie Bundren as she dies.
The most important thing here at the start is the sound of Cash’s saw; He’s
building a coffin for his mother.
The spatial layout of the final sentence reflects a modern style; it mimics the
sound of the saw visually.
Cora, pages 6-9
Cora goes into great detail about how she had to save to bake cakes.
This is what is actually going on in her mind as she sits with the dying Addie
She is in the room with Addie, Kate (random visitor), Eula (random visitor),
Addie (dying mother), and Dewey Dell (Addie’s teenage daughter).
They hear the sound of Cash’s saw; Cora thinks it’s insensitive to build the coffin
before the mother is dead.
Her interior monologue reveals her to be judgmental; for example, she observes
the poor ironing and calls Dewey Dell a “tom-boy girl.”
Darl enters, having walked up the hill from the previous chapter.
Narration changes from chapter to chapter, but it’s important to notice how they
all make one continuous story; each connects to the previous and next.
Darl, pages 10-13
Here we meet Anse Bundren, Addie’s husband.
He is sitting outside on the porch with Vernon Tull, the neighbor.
Darl comments on the taste and smell of water, and in his mind we have a
flashback of him drinking water growing up, as well as a flashback about an early
Dialogue: notice that Anse’s question from page 10 is answered on page 11;
everything else took place in a split second in Darl’s head.
Darl is thinking about Jewel and the horse; he goes into great detail about the
horse; the relationship between Jewel and the horse is important.
Darl uses language that is romantic in tone: “before I stirred it awake with the
dipper I could see maybe a star or two in the bucket…”
Darl uses advanced vocabulary and creative language to describe things: “Save
for Jewel’s legs they are like two figures carved for a tableau savage in the sun.”
Jewel, pages 14-15
Jewel expresses great anger (in his mind) toward Cash for making the coffin
where their mother can hear.
He also criticizes (in his mind) the “others,” who are “sitting there like buzzards.”
He is probably referring to Anse, Vernon Tull, Cora Tull, Eula, Dewey Dell and
Kate, who are all just sitting around Addie waiting for her to die.
He also expresses anger at the people from the county who come to stare at his
He refers to past events when Cash fell off a roof and his father had a load of
wood fall on him; Jewel’s thoughts reveal him to be full of rage and arrogance.
He wants quiet (from the woodworking).
He expresses anger and doubt about God.
Darl, pages 16-20
Darl describes the conversation in which Anse deliberates about whether he
should send Darl and Jewel to sell goods for $3. He wants the money, but knows
their mother is going to die soon, and they might miss her death.
Anse also wants to get on the road to get her buried right away, but won’t be able
to if the wagon is gone.
Darl comments about Jewel: he is a head taller than the others, and their mom
always “whipped and petted” him more.
There is repetition of the fact that it will soon rain.
We learn they need to get her to town to be buried with her family (rather than
with the Bundrens, the family she married into).
Anse ultimately decides to send them on the errand.
Cora, pages 21-25
Cora comments on Darl’s last moment looking at his mother. She sees it as
touching and beautiful.
She, too, tells us that the mother had liked Jewel best.
She expresses disdain that Jewel would want to make $3 rather than see his
She informs us that Darl practically begged them not to make him go for the $3.
She says that Addie was a lonely woman, and that it was the men in the family
who wanted her to be buried in town, not her own wishes like others believe.
This nicely illustrates a key to the whole book: we can’t really know truth for
sure, because it all depends on one’s perspective. Did Addie want to be buried in
town? Some say yes, but Cora Tull says no. There’s no way to know for sure.
She calls the Bundren men “stone-hearted.”
She says Addie hides her pride and her broken heart.
Her language reveals that she is very religious.
She ends by emphasizing how Darl is different in many ways (though most
consider him to be strange), and how he’s the only one who displays affection
This chapter, like many others, conveys a powerful sense of Addie’s isolation.
This connects to the modernist feelings of isolation, apathy, alienation, and
despair. Many modernist writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway touched on
these same ideas. Here, Faulkner shows that isolation and alienation in Addie,
and indeed, in each of his characters through their thoughts.