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As I Lay Dying | Study Guide

William Faulkner

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As I Lay Dying | Quotes


See what a good one I am making for you. I told him to go somewhere else.

Jewel, Section 4: Jewel

Although Jewel is harsh with his mother, he cares about her a great deal. He cannot stand that Cash is making Addie's coffin right where she can see him do it. Jewel is angry at Cash for valuing his carpentry skills and his need for people to compliment him more than her feelings, though Cash believes he is doing this out of loyalty to his mother.


Darl almost begged them on his knees not to force him to leave her in her condition.

Cora, Section 6: Cora

Cora says Tull told her that Darl begged Jewel and Anse to wait for Addie to die before leaving to make a delivery, but Anse wanted the money. This contradicts Darl's version of the same scene, and it serves as a hint not only that Cora may be an unreliable narrator, but that all characters see the world from very different perspectives.


He said he knew without the words like he told me that ma is going to die without words.

Dewey Dell, Section 7: Dewey Dell

Dewey Dell says Darl knew she had slept with Lafe, and she could tell by looking at him, just as he could tell by looking at her. Darl is the most intuitive sibling, yet everyone in the family is somewhat perceptive and can communicate without using words, as the novel explores the almost telepathic link between family members.


Except for the lack of sweat ... you can tell they ain't been nobody else's but Anse's.

Tull, Section 8: Tull

Tull's comment is the third time in the novel a character mentions that Anse's shirts do not have sweat stains. Anse claims he cannot work out of fear of aggravating a past illness. He makes his children and his neighbors do everything for him.


I said to Dewey Dell: 'You want her to die so you can get to town: is that it?'

Darl, Section 10: Darl

Darl is perceptive, and he uses his powers of perception to intimidate or frighten his siblings at times. Dewey Dell is not completely heartless, and does have feelings for her mother, but Darl is partially right about her wanting to get into town before it is too late to do something about her pregnancy.


I knew that if it had finally occurred to Anse himself that he needed one, it was already too late.

Peabody, Section 11: Peabody

Peabody sums up the general perception of Anse's personality by characters outside the family in the community, who all agree: Anse is lazy. Peabody calls Anse "luckless," but he also realizes that it is Anse who makes his own bad luck by waiting for things to get bad before doing anything about them.


'God's will be done,' he says. 'Now I can get them teeth.'

Darl, Section 12: Darl

Darl has a preternatural vision of his mother's death in which he sees Anse's true nature, right after what looks like a tender moment, when Anse touches his dead wife's face and tries to arrange the quilt as his daughter has done, but messes it up. William Faulkner juxtaposes each character's inner desires against their sense of grief and loss throughout As I Lay Dying, showing how grief and loss can manifest in ways so closely to banality that they can be nearly overlooked.


He could fix it alright, if he just would. And he don't even know it.

Dewey Dell, Section 14: Dewey Dell

Dewey Dell repeats these words in Section 14, referring to Peabody, the doctor, who could do something about the pregnancy, such as perform an abortion. But she cannot bring herself to tell him she is pregnant because her father will find out. Dewey Dell is very confused at this point in the novel, and she cannot even tell if she is worried or sad. It is also possible she is thinking of Lafe in this moment, too.


If they want it to tote and ride on a balance, they will have.

Cash, Section 22: Cash

Cash is worried the coffin will not stay steady as they lift it out of the house, and he has every right to worry. There are not enough hands to lift the coffin out and keep it balanced. The important thing to notice about this quote, however, is that Cash does not finish his sentence. This is often how Cash communicates with Jewel or Anse. He starts to say something, but is cut off by Jewel insulting him, and he does not bother trying again because Jewel will not listen. Cash does not say much, but he often agrees with Anse when he should not, and he gets yelled at by Jewel for everything he says.


It's bad that a fellow must earn the reward of his right-doing by flouting hisself and his dead.

Anse, Section 28: Anse

Anse's words sum up how he feels about all of the trouble the family has run into while trying to bury Addie. Anse does believe he is trying to do the right thing, and while he is comforted by the thought of a set of false teeth in it for him at the end of the journey, he still thinks he is being punished by the Lord with the rain and the washed-out bridge for doing what he thinks is the right thing to do.


There I was, standing knee deep in the water, yelling at Anse behind me: 'See what you done now?'

Tull, Section 36: Tull

When Cash and Jewel are swept into the river along with the coffin, the horse, the wagon, and the mules, Tull is furious with Anse, and his comment shows how frightened Tull is and just how foolish and dangerous crossing the river really is.


People to whom sin is just a matter of words, to them salvation is just words too.

Addie, Section 40: Addie

Addie's spirit speaks in the latter half of the book, revealing details about her marriage with Anse, her affair with Whitfield, and her feelings about her children. Cora judges Addie for not living her life properly in God's eyes, but for Addie, it is a person's deeds, or actions, that truly matter. The fact that Addie is willing to die to atone for her sins makes her see Cora's religious viewpoint as superficial and her words as meaningless.


He looked kind of funny: kind of more hangdog than common, and kind of proud, too.

Armstid, Section 43: Armstid

Armstid describes how Anse looks when he comes back from trading with Snopes. Anse not only mortgages his farm equipment, but he also takes Cash's money and trades Jewel's horse because he wants teeth and needs mules to get to Jefferson. Armstid notices that Anse looks like he has done something "cute" but does not know how people will react to it. The reaction is not good: Jewel takes off on the horse. This sets up the central test of Jewel and Anse's relationship.


'I can last it,' Cash says. 'We'll lose time stopping.' 'We done bought the cement now,' pa says.

Darl, Section 46: Darl

Darl narrates a conversation between Anse and Cash, showing how self-effacing Cash is, and how determined he is to please Anse. He will not tell anyone he is in pain, though he obviously is, as he fainted when the horse vet set his leg and he is bleeding and gray-faced in the wagon. This also shows Anse's particular brand of logic and how poverty often keeps him from doing the right thing for his children.


My brother ... went crazy and he went to Jackson too. Jackson is further away than crazy.

Vardaman, Section 56: Vardaman

Darl has been taken to an insane asylum in Jackson after trying to incinerate his mother's coffin by burning down Gillespie's barn. Vardaman cannot stop thinking about his brother leaving, and he rattles on in his head about who is crazy, who is not, and where they all are now. When he says Jackson is further away than crazy, he speaks more of the truth than he knows. Vardaman will likely never see his brother Darl again, and even if he does, Addie's death and the events around it have made Darl's mind snap in ways his other family members will not forgive. When Darl was just a little odd, he still had a place in the family.

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