Considered by many critics to be the greatest American fiction writer, William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, after a prolific career that included the production of nineteen novels and two volumes of poetry. Although his formal education had been limited, Faulkner read prodigiously, including the Greek and Roman classics, the Bible, and the works of William Shakespeare, the English Romantics, Joseph Conrad, James Joyce, and T. S. Eliot. After relatively undistinguished early attempts in poetry and prose, Sherwood Anderson advised Faulkner to concentrate on his “own postage stamp of native soil.” This led to the saga of Yoknapatawpha County, a partly true regional history, based on Oxford, Mississippi, that merged imperceptibly into a coherent myth. Faulkner begins the saga with Sartoris (1929) and continues it in The Sound and the Fury (1929) and As I Lay Dying.
In the Yoknapatawpha novels, Faulkner places himself in the forefront of the avant-garde with his intricate plot organization, his bold experiments in the dislocation of narrative time, and his use of the stream-of-consciousness technique. His stylistic view of time is affected by his sense that past events continue into the present. As he once said, “There is no such thing as was; if was existed, there would be no grief or sorrow.” These stylistic characteristics are undergirded by the development of a complex social structure that enables Faulkner to explore the inherited guilt of the southern past, the incapacity of the white aristocracy to cope with modern life, the relations between classes, and the relations between blacks and whites.
Starkly realistic, poignantly symbolic, grotesquely comic, and immensely complicated as an experiment in points of view, As I Lay Dying ranks with Faulkner’s greatest novels. The relative simplicity of...
(The entire section is 781 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of As I Lay Dying Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!