As I Lay DyingWilliam Faulkner An Introduction
Faulkner’s Unusual Format • As a leader of the Modernist Movement, Faulkner’s primary accomplishment is his use of experimental narration. • As I Lay Dying is told by 15 separate narrators, each telling his or her own version of the events, sometimes supporting and sometimes contradicting each other.
Faulkner’s Unusual Format • Hallmarks of Faulkner’s Technique • Shifting narration from one character to another • Stream-of-consciousness narration • Disruptions in standard chronology • Allowing the reader to put the story into some kind of coherent order • The variety and range of personalities make his “little postage stamp of native soil” representative of the entire human race.
Point of View • Scholars have pointed out that Faulkner may have been influenced by the Impressionist and Cubist painters – such as Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne – in his depiction of a truth that is very subjective and almost constantly evolving. Faulkner viewed and wrote home about the works of these artists on his visit to Paris in 1925.
Point of View • Certainly one can easily see the similarity of As I Lay Dying to Monet’s series of paintings of the same object, for example, haystacks and “Stacks of Wheat” or “The Cathedral of Rouen.” In these paintings and Faulkner’s novel, truth is, to a great degree, personal, relative and ever changing.
Faulkner and Monet • How did the Impressionist and Cubist painters – such as Claude Monet and Paul Cezanne – influence the work of William Faulkner?
The Portal of Rouen Cathedral, “le Portal vu de face”, harmony in brown
As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner • Type of Work • Novel • Genre • Satire of heroic narrative; rural novel; comedy; tragedy • Tone • Varies from narrator to narrator to narrator: tragic, comic, calm, hysterical, emotional, detached • Setting • 1920s, in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi
As I Lay Dyingby William Faulkner • Major Conflict • The members of the Bundren family trek across the Mississippi countryside to bury Addie, their wife and mother. • Source of the Title • Agamemnon’s speech to Odysseus in the Odyssey, Book XI • “As I lay dying the woman with the dog’s eyes would not close my eyes for me as I descended into Hades.”
Tips for Reading Faulkner • Be patient. • Be willing to re-read. • Focus on the characters. • Look for timeless tales. • Make the story your own.
Things to Look For • Characters often express conflicting opinions and contradicting sides to the same story. • Look for changes in typeface. When the text goes from normal to italic it indicates a shift in perspective or a character’s inner thoughts.
How to Read Faulkner • If you get lost… • Check to see whose name is at the beginning of the chapter. • Go back to the last place you remember the story make sense and reread. • Ask yourself, “Where is Addie?”