About the Book

Book Protagonist: Anse Bundren
Publication Date: 1930
Genre: Drama, Literary Fiction


As I Lay Dying

By William Faulkner

William Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' is widely considered to be a modern masterpiece of the Southern Gothic genre. The novel is filled with complicated characters, a feature that’s led to its prominence in modern literature.

The story follows the Bundren family as they make a difficult journey to bury the matriarch of their family, Addie Bundren. Along the way, the reader is introduced to each character and the individual motivations that drive their decisions. Readers may have a hard time keeping up with who is who and what drives each person, particularly those characters who don’t narrate as many sections as others do.

Anse Bundren

Anse Bundren is the father of the Bundren family and is characterized as being a selfish, hypocritical, and lazy man. He rarely contributes to any of the family’s labor, choosing instead to sit idly while his children take on the responsibilities. When he does help, he gets in the way more than he is actually helpful.

Anse is an apathetic and unsympathetic character who is unwilling to put forth any effort in his own life, instead relying on his children to do it for him.

Addie Bundren 

The matriarch of her family in William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying.’ She is a complex character whose motivations are driven by her own selfishness and need for control. 

She is portrayed as a victim of her marriage, and her withdrawn attitude gives her a sense of power, allowing her to manipulate her husband and children with ease. Although she loves them all, she is willing to sacrifice their well-being for her own self-interests. Addie is a complicated figure, and it is clear that her past has had a significant influence on her present.

Darl Bundren 

A complex and enigmatic character. He has a close bond with his mother, Addie, which drives his motivations and actions throughout the story. His own mental instability creates moments of confusion and heightened emotion as he struggles to make sense of the world around him. 

Darl narrates more sections of the novel than anyone else, a total of nineteen out of fifty-nine.

Jewel Bundren 

The passionate, stubborn, and vengeful son of Addie Bundren. He is a hardworking young man, a sharp contrast to the laziness of his father, Anse. Despite his devotion to his family, he feels the need to take revenge against his mother for favoring her other son, Darl, over him. His anger is fueled by his strong sense of justice, and it drives him to dangerous lengths to make his mother pay.

Dewey Dell Bundren 

She is Addie’s only daughter who is motivated by her own pregnancy and need for money. She’s seventeen years old. She is described as a young woman who is both naive and passionate about life. She is motivated to do whatever it takes to secure money for an abortion and is desperate to keep her pregnancy a secret from her family.

Throughout the novel, Dewey Dell faces a moral conflict between her personal desire for freedom and her responsibility as a daughter. Despite her best efforts to get an abortion and hide her pregnancy, she ultimately fails in her mission and is left with the burden of being an unwed mother. However, she maintains her faith in God and perseveres despite all the obstacles that come her way.

Vardaman Bundren

Addie’s youngest son is motivated by his innocence and love for his mother. He narrates nine different sections in the novel. He is a complicated character who often uses over-the-top language to describe what’s going on around him. At one point, he decides to blame Peabody’s horses for his mother’s death. 

Cash Bundren

Addie’s oldest son is motivated by his own practicality and needs for stability. He narrates five sections of the novel. His sections are different than other characters in that he shows his logic quite clearly. He’s a far better man than his brother Darl.

Minister Whitfield 

Minister Whitfield is a local minister and the father of Jewel. He’s best remembered as the man with whom Addie had an affair. He decides to protect her secret after she dies. 

Vernon Tull 

Vernon Tull is a friend to and a critic of the Bundrens. He hires members of the family but also shows hostility toward them, particularly of their decision to take Addie to Jefferson to bury her. 

Cora Tull 

Cora Tull is Vernon’s wife, who is remembered for being with Addie when she died. She’s very religious and often disapproves of the way that Addie lived. 


Peabody is a large, older man who is over 200 pounds. He is also the Bundrens’ doctor.  He struggles to visit Addie due to his weight. 

Kate and Eula Tull 

The daughters of Vernon and Cora. 


He is a farmer who works with the Bundrens. He is also the father of Dewey’s child. He’s only mentioned in passing in the novel, never appearing in it himself. 


Samson is a neighboring farmer. He is Rachel’s husband. The Bundrens stay with him on their way to Jefferson. 


Samson’s wife. She doesn’t like how Addie’s body is being handled. 


Armstid is a local farmer who lets the Bundrens stay with him on the second night of their trip to Jefferson. 


Gillespie is another farmer who the Bundrens stay with on their way to Jefferson. Darl burns down his barn to try to destroy Addie’s coffin. 


Moseley is the druggist that works at the drugstore in Jefferson. Dewey tries to get something from him in order to have an abortion. 


A drugstore clerk the family meets in Jefferson. He convinces Dewey to have sex with him.


Who is the protagonist in As I Lay Dying?

What’s unique about William Faulkner’s ‘As I Lay Dying is that there is no true protagonist. There are several characters, like Addie and Anse, that could be described as the novel’s protagonists. 

Who is the main character in As I Lay Dying?

Often, Darl is described as the main character of ‘As I Lay Dying because he is the first narrator. He narrates more sections than anyone else but becomes increasingly more untrustworthy as the novel progresses. 

How many narrators are there in As I Lay Dying?

There are a total of 15 narrators in the story of ‘As I Lay Dying,’ one of the primary features that have categorized this novel as so experimental. 

What are some major themes in ‘As I Lay Dying?’

Some major themes in ‘As I Lay Dying‘ include death and dying, family relationships, the nature of truth and reality, and the conflict between individual desires and social norms

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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