As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text (Modern Library Series)

As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text (Modern Library Series)

by William Faulkner


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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of all time

From the Modern Library’s new set of beautifully repackaged hardcover classics by William Faulkner—also available are Snopes, The Sound and the Fury, Light in August, Absalom, Absalom!, and Selected Short Stories

One of William Faulkner’s finest novels, As I Lay Dying, originally published in 1930, remains a captivating and stylistically innovative work. The story revolves around a grim yet darkly humorous pilgrimage, as Addie Bundren’s family sets out to fulfill her last wish: to be buried in her native Jefferson, Mississippi, far from the miserable backwater surroundings of her married life. Told through multiple voices, As I Lay Dying vividly brings to life Faulkner’s imaginary South, one of literature’s great invented landscapes, and is replete with the poignant, impoverished, violent, and hypnotically fascinating characters that were his trademark. Along with a new Foreword by E. L. Doctorow, this edition reproduces the corrected text of As I Lay Dying as established in 1985 by Faulkner expert Noel Polk.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375504525
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/25/2001
Series: Modern Library 100 Best Novels Series
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 153,077
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

William Faulkner was born in New Albany, Mississippi, on September 25, 1897. He published his first book, The Marble Faun (a collection of poems), in 1924, and his first novel, Soldier's Pay, in 1926. In 1949, having written such works as Absalom, Absalom!, As I Lay Dying, Light in August, and The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He also received the Pulitzer Prize for two other novels, A Fable (1954) and The Reivers (1962). From 1957 to 1958 he was Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia. He died on July 6, 1962, in Byhalia, Mississippi.

Date of Birth:

September 25, 1897

Date of Death:

July 6, 1962

Place of Birth:

New Albany, Mississippi

Place of Death:

Byhalia, Mississippi

Read an Excerpt

Jewel and I come up from the field, following the path in single file. Although I am fifteen feet ahead of him, anyone watching us from the cottonhouse can see Jewel's frayed and broken straw hat a full head above my own.

The path runs straight as a plumb-line, worn smooth by feet and baked brick-hard by July, between the green rows of laidby cotton, to the cottonhouse in the center of the field, where it turns and circles the cottonhouse at four soft right angles and goes on across the field again, worn so by feet in fading precision.

The cottonhouse is of rough logs, from between which the chinking has long fallen. Square, with a broken roof set at a single pitch, it leans in empty and shimmering dilapidation in the sunlight, a single broad window in two opposite walls giving onto the approaches of the path. When we reach it I rum and follow the path which circles the house. jewel, fifteen feet behind me, looking straight ahead, steps in a single stride through the window. Still staring straight ahead, his pale eyes like wood set into his wooden face, he crosses the floor in four strides with the rigid gravity of a cigar store Indian dressed in patched overalls and endued with life from the hips down, and steps in a single stride through the opposite window and into the path again just as I come around the comer. In single file and five feet apart and jewel now in front, we go on up the path toward the foot of the bluff.

Tull's wagon stands beside the spring, hitched to the rail, the reins wrapped about the seat stanchion. In the wagon bed are two chairs. Jewel stops at the spring and takes the gourd from the willow branch and drinks. I pass him and mount the path, beginning to bear Cash's saw.

When I reach the top he has quit sawing. Standing in a litter of chips, he is fitting two of the boards together. Between the shadow spaces they are yellow as gold, like soft gold, bearing on their flanks in smooth undulations the marks of the adze blade: a good carpenter, Cash is. He holds the two planks on the trestle, fitted along the edges in a quarter of the finished box. He kneels and squints along the edge of them, then he lowers them and takes up the adze. A good carpenter.

Addie Bundren could not want a better one, a better box to lie in. it will give her confidence and comfort. I go on to the house, followed by the

Chuck. Chuck. Chuck.

of the adze

What People are Saying About This

Ralph D. Ellison

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.

Edmund Wilson

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

Robert Penn Warren

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.

Reading Group Guide

1. Which are the most intelligent and sympathetic voices in the novel? With whom do you most and least identify? Is Faulkner controlling your closeness to some characters and not others? How is this done, given the seemingly equal mode of presentation for all voices?

2. Even the reader of such an unusual book may be surprised to come upon Addie Bundren's narrative on page 169, if only because Addie has been dead since page 48. Why is Addie's narrative placed where it is, and what is the effect of hearing Addie's voice at this point in the book? Is this one of the ways in which Faulkner shows Addie's continued "life" in the minds and hearts of her family? How do the issues raised by Addie here relate to the book as a whole?

3. Faulkner allows certain characters--especially Darl and Vardaman--to express themselves in language and imagery that would be impossible, given their lack of education and experience in the world. Why does he break with the realistic representation of character in this way?

4. What makes Darl different from the other characters? Why is he able to describe Addie's death [p. 48] when he is not present? How is he able to intuit the fact of Dewey Dell's pregnancy? What does this uncanny visionary power mean, particularly in the context of what happens to Darl at the end of the novel? Darl has fought in World War I; why do you think Faulkner has chosen to include this information about him? What are the sources and meaning of his madness?

5. Anse Bundren is surely one of the most feckless characters in literature, yet he alone thrives in the midst of disaster. How does he manage to command the obedience and cooperation of his children? Whyare other people so generous with him? He gets his new teeth at the end of the novel and he also gets a new wife. What is the secret of Anse's charm? How did he manage to make Addie marry him, when she is clearly more intelligent than he is?

6. Some critics have spoken of Cash as the novel's most gentle character, while others have felt that he is too rigid, too narrow-minded, to be
sympathetic. What does Cash's list of the thirteen reasons for beveling the edges of the coffin tell us about him? What does it tell us about his feeling for his mother? Does Cash's carefully reasoned response to Darl's imprisonment seem fair to you, or is it a betrayal of his brother?

7. Jewel is the result of Addie's affair with the evangelical preacher Whitfield (an aspect of the plot that bears comparison with Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter). When we read Whitfield's section, we realize that Addie has again allied herself with a man who is not her equal. How would you characterize the preacher? What is the meaning of this passionate alliance, now repudiated by Whitfield? Does Jewel know who his father is?

8. What is your response to the section spoken by Vardaman, which states simply, "My mother is a fish"? What sort of psychological state or process does this declaration indicate? What are some of the ways in which Vardaman insists on keeping his mother alive, even as he struggles to understand that she is dead? In what other ways does the novel show characters wrestling with ideas of identity and embodiment?

9. This is a novel full of acts of love, not the least of which is the prolonged search in the river for Cash's tools. Consider some of the other
ways that love is expressed among the members of the family. What compels loyalty in this family? What are the ways in which that loyalty is betrayed? Which characters are most self-interested?

10. The saga of the Bundren family is participated in, and reflected upon, by many other characters. What does the involvement of Doctor Peabody, of Armstid, and of Cora and Vernon Tull say about the importance of community in country life? Are the characters in the town meant to provide a contrast with country people?

11. Does Faulkner deliberately make humor and the grotesque interdependent in this novel? What is the effect of such horrific details as Vardaman's accidental drilling of holes in his dead mother's face? Of Darl and Vardaman listening to the decaying body of Addie "speaking"? Of Vardaman's anxiety about the growing number of buzzards trying to get at the coffin? Of Cash's bloody broken leg, set in concrete and suppurating in the heat? Of Jewel's burnt flesh? Of the "cure" that Dewey Dell is tricked into?

12. In one of the novel's central passages, Addie meditates upon the distance between words and actions: "I would think how words go straight up in a thin line, quick and harmless, and how terribly doing goes along the earth, clinging to it, so that after a while the two lines are too far apart for the same person to straddle from one to the other; and that sin and love and fear are just sounds that people who never sinned nor loved nor feared have for what they never had and cannot have until they forget the words" [pp. 173-74]. What light does this passage shed upon the meaning of the novel? Aren't words necessary in order to give form to the story of the Bundrens? Or is Faulkner saying that words--his own chosen medium--are inadequate?

13. What does the novel reveal about the ways in which human beings deal with death, grieving, and letting go of our loved ones?

Comparing The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying, andAbsalom, Absalom!

1. In all three of these novels the family is central to structure, plot, and meaning. It is the source of grief and identity as well as the locus of all individual psychic struggles. Do you see all of Faulkner's characters eternally trapped within their familial roles? How do the families differ in each of these novels, and how are they similar? How do the particularly important symbolic roles of the mother and the father differ from book to book?

2. Faulkner tries to make himself disappear in these works. Instead of using the traditional third-person narrator that most readers associate with the author, he directs a chorus of voices that intertwine, complement, and contradict one another. As readers, we must rely on what we learn from the characters themselves as to time, place, plot, and matters of cause and effect. Why do you think Faulkner prefers to make his characters speak "directly" to his readers? How does this technique affect your ability to believe in the worlds that exist in these novels? How would more direct intervention by an authorial voice change your experience?

3. In which of these works do you think Faulkner's style, his use of language, and his formal innovations are most finely tuned, most powerfully worked out? In which do you feel that his stylistic quirks are most annoying, most distracting?

4. All of these novels question our assumptions about time as regular, linear, sequential, predictable. What are some of the ways in which time is disrupted in these works?

5. The Compson family of The Sound and the Fury (1929) plays a central role in Absalom, Absalom! (1936) as well. Does Faulkner want readers of Absalom, Absalom! to assume that Quentin's involvement in the Sutpen story is one of the reasons for his suicide, which takes place three months later in The Sound and the Fury? Do you see a seamless characterization of Quentin and Mr. Compson in the two books?

6. Faulkner is interested in the causes and effects of extreme psychological pressures, as we see in Quentin and Benjy Compson, Henry and Thomas Sutpen, Rosa Coldfield, Vardaman and Darl Bundren, and many other characters in these novels. What are some of the forms that psychopathology takes in Faulkner's world?

7. Faulkner has often been accused of an extremely misogynistic representation of women. Consider Caddy Compson, Dilsey, Dewey Dell and Addie Bundren, Judith Sutpen, Rosa Coldfield, the wife of Charles St. Valery Bon, and other female characters in these three novels. How would you describe Faulkner's notion of the feminine, as compared with the masculine? Do you agree with the critic Irving Howe that "Faulkner's inability to achieve moral depth in his portraiture of young women clearly indicates a major failing as a novelist"?

8. Is the work of Faulkner necessarily different in its impact depending upon whether one is from the North or the South, whether one is black or white?

Customer Reviews

As I Lay Dying: The Corrected Text (Modern Library Series) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
RobinDawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Might be a classic, but this one left me stone cold. A more awful bunch of people I've never met. A family of half crazy, brutal 'po' whites' who set out on totally misguided journey to get old Granny Addie's corpse into the grave in a distant village. There are multiple narrators (with bizarre names), but their voices are not clearly differentiated - in fact Faulkner text is designed to obscure identification and the stream of consciousness technique added to the confusion.
LaPhenix on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A slow start, but momentum keeps building through the whole book and has you racing towards the end. There's a lot to untangle, but it's one of the most fantastic examples of classic literature that I've read.
bohemima on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I often think about reading Faulkner, usually with much trepidation because of both his rather complicated style and his odd methods of plot advancement. I find that picking up the book and plunging into that boiling sea of prose is much easier than it seems. The reader doesn't drown or burn up, but instead swims easily and steadily, even if that swimming is in circles."As I Lay Dying" is the story of a woman's death and the incredibly inept attempts of her family to bury her in an appropriate place. Told in fifteen different voices, including that of the deceased, the story makes the reader struggle a bit at first, but soon each voice becomes easily distinguished. The characters are clearly etched and each is completely different from all the others. Although this is a true Southern Gothic tale, and at the same time very funny, in the end it's about the futility of human existence. At least that's what I thought: the last sentence (don't by any means read ahead) is a stunner.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the second book I've read by William Faulkner. My first, Intruder in the Dust, was assigned me in high school and was my introduction both to Faulkner and to the stream-of-consciouness technique. It wasn't a happy experience in either respect. Now, soon after tackling Joyce's Ulysses, considered the epitome of stream-of-consciousness literature, I finally read As You Lay Dying, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for who knows how long. It's a much easier read than Ulysses, but I'm afraid I found that decades later, I still find myself hating Faulkner with the heat of a thousand suns. And yes, I did understand how this is all about different perceptions yada yada. You can understand this book, you can get the place of its technique in literary history, and still hate it.Published in 1930, this is the story of Addie Bundren's last journey with her family to be buried in Jefferson, Mississippi. One of her sons, Cash, begins to build her coffin where she can hear the sawing of the planks where she lays dying. The novel is told through 15 first person points of view in 59 chapters, a third of which come from one of her sons Darl. Although a bit macabre, it might have worked with a more conventional style, where we could understand Addie and her family and the impact of her death from all those perspectives--one of them told by her even as she lays rotting in her coffin. But I think part of my problem with writers such as Joyce and Faulkner is that their techniques too often seem a gimmick--it's all you can notice and stands between the reader and the story and any immediacy and makes it impossible to care about their characters--not that the bunch in this novel, kindly called "dysfunctional" in some reviews and "white trash" in others is ever lovable. It's not as if the style fits those characters. These are simple country folk. And much of their monologues are rendered with the usual Huckleberry Finn-like misspellings and dialect and the random absence of an apostrophe. But then Faulkner can't resist rolling out these articulate, sophisticated sentences that don't fit the first person point of view. Some of those passages are beautiful. Note this description of the rain:It begins to rain. The first harsh, sparse, swift drops rush through the leaves and across the ground in a long sigh, as though of relief from intolerable suspense. They are big as buckshot, warm as though fired from a gun; they sweep across the lantern in a vicious hissing.Lovely, but doesn't fit backwoods farmers who seemingly can't spell or punctuate grammatically, does it? Then there are the times we go to that irritating stream of words that is supposed to represent a wandering, meandering mind with its run-on sentences and non sequiturs:We picked on down the row, the woods getting closer and closer and the secret shade, picking on into the secret shade with my sack and Lafe's sack. Because I said will I or won't I when the sack was half full because I said if the sack is full when we get to the woods it won't be me. I said if it dont mean for me to do it the sack will not be full and I will turn up the next row but if the sack is full, I cannot help it. It will be that I had to do it all the time and I cannot help it. And we picked on toward the secret shade and our eyes would drown together touching on his hands and I didnt say anything. I said "What are you doing?" and he said "I am picking into your sack." And so it was full when we came to the end of the row and I could not help it.There are chapters that end with a sentence without a period. There is a chapter of only one line: My mother is a fish. (Admittedly in the context of the book not quite as nonsensical as that sounds.) Cash, the guy eagerly building his mother's coffin at the beginning gives us a chapter of two sentences and another consisting of a short list, both dealing with building the coffin. All sorts of modernist techniq
youampersandme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Faulkner novel that I've read so far.
rossryanross on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steam of consciousness, multiple focalizers, death, destruction, and a great ending. What's not to love?
jmcilree on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can not praise this book enough. Inventive, captivating. The foulest family ever invented, almost no redeeming qualities. At times I couldn't put it down and other times I dreaded picking it up. Read it, then read it again.
SanctiSpiritus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow! This novel is quite morbid, and grim. Probably most analogous with some of Cormac McCarthy's more dark epics. You read on to see how low this family can sink into a depraved, stingy, and heartless abyss. Faulkner was certainly a genius.
rainpebble on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read As I Lay Dying yesterday as I lay trying to get over viral pneumonia and I must say that I enjoyed my first William Faulkner more.As I Lay Dying is the story of a poor family whose mother/wife is dying & the husband has promised her that he would bury her in her hometown with her kinfolk. It is told in the first person in small chapters by everyone in the story. Mother dies early on and the remainder of the story is principally the telling of how the family struggled to fulfill the father's promise to the her.I didn't have enough time with any one character to really identify with them & thus it made it difficult for me to care about any of them. It was well written as all of Faulkner's works seem to be. I'm glad I read it but I think perhaps I missed quite a bit of his meaning of the words and just read the words of the story. I will have to read this one again one day when my brain is a little less befuddled.
deebee1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I never thought a story about dying and death could be grimly amusing. It sounds macabre, but macabre this story was, and brilliantly, too. Addie Bundren takes awhile dying, and in the opening scene, we find her watching through her bedroom window Cash, her eldest, building a coffin for her. Finally she is dead and there the family's luckless adventure begins as they have to bring her body to Jefferson, where she came from. Anse, the husband, swears it was a promise he made her, and that he will fulfill at all costs. That the body was placed reversed on the coffin, to start, could not have boded well for the entire endeavor. Against all common sense, Anse insists on crossing the ford instead as the bridge had collapsed. A ludicrous scene follows with horse, mules, people and coffin being carried away by the waters. The coffin is intact, and surviving waters, fire, and the petty hostilities between the siblings and the sly manipulations of the lazy Anse throughout the transport, it finally entered Jefferson in a procession accompanied by vultures overhead, for now it had been the 9th day and the smell was horrible. While we learn of things that happened in the course of bringing Addie's body to Jefferson, we also learn of her life and the family's, skeletons and all, before this took place, spread in the novel's 59 chapters and from the point of view of 15 narrators. Written in a stream of consciousness style, some effort is necessary when switching from one point of view to another, as narrators can be articulate, confusing, vague or abstruse. I found this fun, though, as all these were like dots I had to connect and work out by myself. Also, by getting into each character's mind, we experience and perceive rather than "told" of what he or she goes through, and so as a reader, have to sometimes consciously detach ourselves from the narrator to "see" what is happening. For example in the case of the boy, Verdaman who thinks his mother is a fish. I had to pull back and reflect -- why did he think his mother is a fish? So there, go find out why he thinks his mother is a fish. Read the book and find out why Faulkner is a giant of literature.
andreablythe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Bundren family must take the body of their matriarch, Addy Bundren, to her home town in Jefferson, where she wants to be buried. Along the way, the unlucky family meets obstacle after obstacle. Faulkner jumps points of view, getting into the head of each character, revealing their inner hopes and fears, with precise clarity of voice. Each character is multi-layered and complex, as though they were flesh and blood. I certainly liked this one far better than The Sound and the Fury. As I Lay Dying, despite being innately morbid, is less overtly bleak and the writing is less dense and more readable. Though I came, bit by bit, to hate the father figure, who seemed unconsciously cruel and stubborn, I actually liked many of the characters in this book. Despite their many hardships, I believed many of the characters had enough humanity and goodness in them to find a way to pull out of the spiraling despair of their lives. So if you are interested in reading a Faulkner, I would definitely recommend going with this one over The Sound and the Fury.
stipe168 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
his easiest book to read. a family buries their mother, and on the journey to the gravesite, we get narrations from each of the family members. chilling.
placo75 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book on a whim (think, "Smart people read Faulkner, right? I like to pretend I'm smart, so I better read this book.") Man, I'm glad my vanity led me to that. This book blew me away. It is not for the literary faint-of-heart, but it is good.
bibliophile26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A family's journey to bury the matriarch of the family. This is a stream-of-consciousness novel, and was hard to get into...however, Faulkner has nothing on James Joyce or Virginia Woolf (the king and queen of SOC). I did enjoy the book once I figured out all the characters, but I declined to read the other two Faulkner books that are part of Oprah's Summer Reading list
stephenmurphy on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Changed my life. Now I know I am born to stay, bein' upright an' all... Absolutely gripping and psychologically challenging, this book really changed my life.
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aNewmanEvolution More than 1 year ago
A sobering visit to the very dysfunctional Bundren family. I purchased and read this book for an American Literature college course. I appreciated the many layers of depth in the text when reading it with an analytical eye. The characters are well developed in writing, even if they are not well developed people. I've only read it once, but as I have heard, it gets more amazing with each reading. Although difficult to read, this story is definitely a thought provoker. It can stir up a lot of vibrant debate on the complexity and simplicity of human traits.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
'How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home.' says Darl Bundren in William Faulkner's poetic novel As I Lay Dying. The title of this novel comes from Homer's Odyssey. As I lay dying are words spoken by Agamemnon's shade in Hades as he recounts his homecoming murder by his wife.'As I lay dying the woman with the dog's eyes would not close my eyelids for me as I descended into Hades.' While touching on the Greek classics I will mention that this novel reminds of Sophocles' tragedy Antigone, the story of a sisters repeated attempts to bury her brother. Leaving ancient Greece we find ourselves in late 1920s Mississippi as the Bundren family prepare to take their wife and mother Addie ,who is about to die, to her home town of Jefferson for burial. When she dies, early in the novel, they take the coffin by wagon and must endure flooded rivers and fire among other obstacles to get her there nine days later. The burden that the Bundrens carry in the wagon is mostly themselves, each self an onerous cargo. The story is told through multiple first person viewpoints of the family members, neighbors, and the people they meet along the way. Working the graveyard shift in a power plant Faulkner wrote this lyrical masterwork in about eight weeks. I like where Cash alludes to the golden rule in his carpenter language 'Folks seem to get away from the olden right teaching that says to drive the nails down and trim the edges well always like it was for your own use and comfort you were making it'. Hunting horn in hand Faulkner sounds the note mort in this novel. The Bundrens form a kind of rolling wake around Addie's coffin as the wagon wheels whisper a dirge in the Mississippi mud and the sky above them wears black circles in mourning.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As I lay Dying Is kind of hard to read, but it has a very interesting story. William Faulner divided this book up into 59 sections. 15 different characters tell the story. Faulkner constantly switches the narrator and that makes it kind of difficult to understand this book. This story is about a family that lives in rural Mississippi in the 1920's. The mother dies and the rest of the family has to take her body and casket 40 miles away to be buried. The family drives a covered wagon pulled by a team of mules. The family faces many hardships and that is what makes this book so interesting. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to be challenged as a reader. Overall, this book is one of the best ones I have ever read. The only part a reader will have to overcome is Faulkner's organizational techniques.