About the Book

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


As I Lay Dying

By William Faulkner

'As I Lay Dying' is one of the most influential novels written in the 20th century. It takes place in the rural south and follows a single family. Faulkner demonstrates his incredible skill with language and setting within the novel’s many noteworthy quotes. 

From the first page, readers are captivated by the individual family members, their personalities and opinions, and how different they all are from one another. Each deals with the job of taking Addie’s body to Jefferson, but inside, each person is going through something very different. 


That’s what they mean by the love that passeth understanding: that pride, that furious desire to hide that abject nakedness which we bring here with us, […]carry stubbornly and furiously with us into the earth again.

This is one of the best-known quotes from the early part of ‘As I Lay Dying.’ The quote is thought by Peabody, the doctor responsible for tending to the Bundren family. He’s considering Addie’s life and how ill she is. When he speaks about love, he’s alluding to the relationship Addie has with her favorite son, Jewel. Her love for him goes beyond what seems rational. He knows that she’ll love him through all time, even if he doesn’t love her. 


Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It’s like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it’s the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it.

These lines come from section 53 and are thought by Cash, another Bundren son. He’s thinking about the fact that the family had Darl, another brother, committed to an asylum to avoid him going to jail for burning down the Gillespie’s barn. His actions were a desperate and misguided attempt to destroy his mother’s body and end the family’s long trek to Jefferson. 

Life and Death 

And the next morning they found him in his shirt-tail laying asleep on the floor like a felled steer, and the top of the box bored clean full of holes and Cash’s new auger broke off in the last one. When they taken the lid off her they found that two of them had bored on into her face.

Death is the most important theme in ‘As I Lay Dying,’ and it is demonstrated quite well in this quote. The lines reference Vardaman’s misguided choice to drill holes in his mother’s coffin, thinking it unfair that she’s trapped there and may not be able to breathe. When they open the coffin later, they find that two of the holes were drilled through the wood and into her face. 

It’s just a loan. God knows, I hate for my blooden children to reproach me. But I give them what was mine without stint. Cheerful I give them, without stint. And now they deny me. Addie. It was lucky for you you died, Addie.

These lines appear in section 58 towards the end of the novel when Addie is finally buried in Jefferson. Anse thinks these lines about Addie and how she is really the lucky one in the family to have passed away. Anse has to live a longer life. This quote also demonstrates his hypocrisy. 

And then, life wasn’t made to be easy on folks: they wouldn’t ever have any reason to be good and die. 

This is another quote about Addie’s situation that suggests she was lucky to die. The other members of the family feel as though, at times, it would be better and simpler to be dead. 


I said, “Just because you have been a faithful wife is no sign that there is no sin in your heart, and just because your life is hard is no sign that the Lord’s grace is absolving you.” And she said, “I know my own sin. I know that I deserve my punishment. I do not begrudge it.

These lines come from Addie’s perspective as she’s considering her death from beyond the grave. She considers how faithfulness in marriage is not necessarily a sign of sinlessness. This is of particular importance to her as she had an affair during her life and produced her son, Jewel. 

Now and then a fellow gets to thinking about it. Not often, though. Which is a good thing. For the Lord aimed for him to do and not to spend too much time thinking, because his brain it’s like a piece of machinery: it won’t stand a whole lot of racking. It’s best when it all runs along the same, doing the day’s work and not no one part used no more than needful.

These lines are in a section narrated by Vernon, specifically section 16. He’s thinking about religion and how he believes God wanted humanity to go about their day-to-day lives without giving too much thought to the meaning of life or its complexities. He supports his own opinions by suggesting what God intended or didn’t intend, as do many of the characters in the novel ‘As I Lay Dying.’ 



What is As I Lay Dying about? 

The story of ‘As I Lay Dying is about a family’s journey to bury their matriarch, Addie Bundren, in the town of Jefferson. It’s an incredible imposition on the family, but they follow through with the journey out of a sense of duty.

Why did Faulkner write As I Lay Dying

There is no single reason that William Faulkner wrote ‘As I Lay Dying.’ There are suggestions that he was inspired by his personal life and the life of his mother when crafting the family dynamic. 

What is the style of As I Lay Dying

Faulkner wrote this novel in an experimental, modernist style using stream-of-consciousness and 15 different narrators. This sets the novel apart from the bulk of literature written during the early-to-mid 1900s. 

What is the significance of the coffin in ‘As I Lay Dying?’

The coffin is a central symbol in ‘As I Lay Dying,’ representing both the physical remains of Addie Bundren and the emotional baggage that each character carries with them. The coffin also serves as a plot device, driving the characters’ journey and adding tension to the story.

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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