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 a classic novel by William Faulkner that was published in 1930. The story follows the Bundren family's attempt to fulfill the last wishes of their deceased matriarch, Addie Bundren and uses a skillful experimental style that Faulkner is today well-known for.

Through the family’s journey, readers learn about the complex relationships between each member of the family and their struggles with mortality and the grief of losing a loved one. The novel is not always easy to read, but it always rewards those who make an effort to see through the way characters appear into how they truly feel about themselves and others.

Summary of the Plot

As I Lay Dying‘ by William Faulkner tells the story of a family from the deep south struggling with death and grief. When their matriarch Addie Bundren passes away, her husband Anse and their five children, Cash, Darl, Jewel, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman, embark on a journey to fulfill Addie’s dying wish – to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson. 

Along the way, they face many obstacles, such as swollen rivers (that seem to coincide with the moment of Addie’s death), flood damage, and the loss of a beloved horse. Through each character’s unique voice, we experience the various emotions associated with death and grief. The Bundrens eventually make it to Jefferson, but not without tragedy and despair. ‘As I Lay Dying offers readers an intimate look at life in the South and how families come together in times of crisis.

Faulkner’s Use of Narrators

William Faulkner’s 1930 novel, ‘As I Lay Dying,’ is a story told from the perspectives of multiple narrators. Fifteen members of the Bundren family are used to tell the story of their struggles as they journey to Jefferson.

Each narrator has their own unique perspective on the events that take place during the journey. This approach allows for a more vivid and complete picture of what is happening and creates a more engaging story. Each narrator offers their own personal insights and feelings on the characters and situations they encounter. 

The use of multiple narrators also provides readers with an understanding of how the same event can be viewed differently by each character. This creates a greater sense of empathy in the reader and allows them to connect more deeply with the characters in ‘As I Lay Dying.’

However, this writing style can also be challenging for some readers because it can be difficult to follow all the different points of view. If you’ve never read the novel before, itcan be quite difficult to keep up with who is who and how a character feels about situations and events. Despite this potential downside, Faulkner’s use of narrators is a powerful and effective storytelling tool that brings the novel to life in a unique and captivating way.

Thematic Importance

The themes in ‘As I Lay Dying are particularly important for a number of reasons. Faulkner’s story is primarily focused on the Bundren family’s journey to bury their matriarch, Addie, but along the way, readers learn about the character’s individual struggles and how their personal lives intersect with the overall narrative. Through the use of several narrators, readers are able to get a complete picture of the Bundrens’ story and the issues they’re facing.

The main theme of the novel is death and the impact it has on individuals and families. Faulkner’s characters grapple with questions of mortality and what happens after death, exploring themes such as grief, guilt, and acceptance. Throughout the novel, death is used as a way to reflect on life and its fragility. The characters must come to terms with their own mortality and the losses they experience.

The book also explores themes of faith and religion. In a book that is so focused on death, there is an underlying sense of spirituality that pervades throughout the novel. Faulkner uses Addie’s funeral as an opportunity to explore the relationships between the characters and their faith. The Bundrens rely heavily on religion to get them through their difficult journey, despite their differing beliefs.

Finally, Faulkner examines the idea of identity and self-discovery. As each character comes to terms with their own mortality, they must also confront their own identities. Throughout their journey, each of them must make decisions about who they are and how they want to be remembered when they are gone. In this way, ‘As I Lay Dying‘ can be seen as a reflection on life, as it shows readers how death can ultimately shape our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world. Because Faulkner used so many narrators in this novel, it also allows readers to connect to his themes in different ways. Readers may have differing opinions about characters’ choices and relate to one character more than another.

Faulkner’s Writing Style

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is unique among novels in the early-to-mid 1900s. His writing style is often described as highly experimental and complex. Faulkner takes readers on a roller coaster of emotions and explores the complexities of life and death. The narrative of the book is told through multiple narrators and a stream-of-consciousness style, which adds to the complexity of the writing. It can be very hard to new readers of Faulkner’s novels to get on board with this style of writing, particularly if the novel is assigned rather than sought out for pleasure.

Faulkner uses a stream-of-consciousness style throughout the book, allowing readers to explore the inner thoughts of each narrator. He also incorporates multiple perspectives, making it difficult to determine the protagonist of the story. This creates a more realistic experience for readers, as they can relate to the different characters in the novel. 

The language that Faulkner uses in ‘As I Lay Dying‘ is also noteworthy. He employs a variety of words and phrases from Southern dialects, giving the narrative an authentic voice. He uses vivid imagery and symbolism to bring life to his characters and their situations. Faulkner’s writing is poetic and evocative, creating a unique atmosphere and making readers feel like they are a part of the story. He captures the world as the Bundrens experienced it, each in their unique way. This makes the entire setting feel alive and highly relatable.

The Importance of As I Lay Dying

As I Lay Dying‘ is an important novel because it explores the complexities of life and death while also providing insight into the human experience. It takes on the challenge of tackling difficult topics in a poignant yet accessible way, making it a timeless classic. 

The novel’s multiple narrators provide a wide range of perspectives on the same story, allowing readers to gain an understanding of the characters’ lives and the events that take place throughout the book. This multifaceted approach helps to create a more complete and immersive experience for readers. ‘As I Lay Dying is truly a remarkable work that has continued to be relevant and meaningful for readers over the years.

As I Lay Dying: Faulkner's Greatest Literary Creation
  • Story
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Writing Style
  • Dialogue
  • Conclusion

As I Lay Dying Review

Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying is a classic of 20th-century American literature. It uses an experimental style and universal themes to speak about the death of one woman and the impact it has on her entire family.


  • Inspiring writing style
  • Unique characters
  • Depth of feeling


  • Complex and confusing
  • Unresolved storylines
  • Stream-of-consciousness style can be hard to read
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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