Study Guide

As I Lay Dying

by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying Analysis

Places Discussed (Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

Bundren house

Bundren house. Home of Addie and Anse Bundren, located in Yoknapatawpha County on a ridge far removed from a secondary gravel road and nearly inaccessible. The house is a fortress of “white-trash” values, tension, and ignorance. There, Anse and Addie have reared five children, all of whom characterize some aspect of the Old South in its demise. The family members occupy the house in disharmony, at odds not only with one another but with the universe itself. Nevertheless, they are representative members and products of their society, who manifest the stench of the South’s decay. Addie dies in the house in the opening chapter, and the family’s struggle to dispose of her body drives the rest of the narrative.


Road. Unnamed and little-traveled road leading to New Hope Baptist Church and Varner’s Store that provides the main backdrop of the novel’s setting during the Bundrens’ six-day journey conveying Addie’s body forty miles to Jefferson. Taking the form of a mock epic, the funeral journey occurs mostly on a backwoods route that is beset by a dangerous flood and a fire. Though remote and isolated, the road contains much to mimic and intimates the cosmic setup of the universe as the Bundren family attempts to get Addie’s decomposing body to town so they can bury her in the cemetery she chose before she died.


Barns. Like most barns in totally agrarian societies, the barns in the novel indicate the livelihood and sustenance of the society itself. Symbolic of continued perseverance and orderliness and more important even than homes to these farmers and share croppers, barns provide settings for two pivotal scenes in the novel. In the barn of the Bundrens’ neighbors, the Tulls, buzzards discover Addie’s body and begin to follow the wagon and funeral procession ominously. Later when the body is being stored in a barn belonging to a helpful stranger named Gillespie, who lives outside Jefferson, Darl Bundren tries to perform an act of sanity by burning down the barn to cleanse his mother’s body with fire. Instead, he fails and is sent to an asylum for the insane.


River. Unnamed stream that is more a creek than a river and that impedes the Bundrens’ progress when it becomes too swollen to cross. The river’s waters universally represent the water of cleansing, purification, birth, and baptism that a flood can provide through total destruction. Although the river is the most formidable obstacle that the Bundrens confront on their journey, it is the one that can, perhaps, provide the greatest chance of redemption: Nature itself rebels against the continued attempt of the family to outrage God by not burying the body at once. The family escapes the river just as it escapes the flames of the burning barn.


Drugstore. Pharmacy where Dewey Dell Bundren tries to buy an abortion “medicine” from a corrupt employee, who later seduces her as part of his treatment. Representative of the ability of science to correct moral faults, this pharmacy fails to provide any relief and serves only to worsen the predicaments of the members of the family.


Jefferson. Seat of Mississippi’s Yoknapatawpha County, in whose cemetery Addie is finally buried, after Anse borrows a shovel to dig her grave. This small southern town gives shelter and approval to the Bundren family for their actions by hypocritically ignoring the violation against nature that the delayed burial manifests. Thus, the town itself participates in the further corruption of the entire society.

As I Lay Dying Historical Context

Phychoanalyzing Machine Published by Gale Cengage

Farm Life in the South
Despite efforts to improve technology and farming methods, a farmer's life during the 1920s...

(The entire section is 654 words.)

As I Lay Dying Quizzes

Unit 1 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why are Cora and Vernon Tull, Kate, and Eula at the Bundren house?

2. What reason does Anse give for not working?

3. How do we know Cora Tull is not a reliable narrator?

4. How does Dewey Dell explain why she got pregnant?

5. What reason does Tull give for people continuing to help Anse out?

6. Who is Anse’s main concern?

7. Why is Peabody upset at being called to the Bundren’s farm?

8. Why didn’t Anse send for Peabody sooner?

9. What is the function of the italicized sections in Darl’s narratives?

10. What are Anse’s and Dewey Dell’s actual motives for getting to...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Unit 2 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. How does Peabody’s team of horses get chased away from the Bundren farm?

2. How did Lafe respond when Dewey Dell told him she was pregnant?

3. How do Cora and Vernon Tull discover that Addie has died?

4. Before boring the holes in the coffin, how else does Vardaman attempt to provide his dead mother with air?

5. Why does Armstid suggest Anse bury Addie in New Hope?

6. Why does Cash walk with a limp?

7. According to Cora, what reward has Addie finally received?

8. Why does Cash take his tools with him on the trip to Jefferson?

9. What other indication does Darl give that he knows Dewey Dell is...

(The entire section is 336 words.)

Unit 3 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why won’t the Bundrens accept food or decent shelter from Samson?

2. What does Samson consider to be the way to show respect to Addie?

3. What does the buzzard in the barn remind Samson of?

4. Who decides that they will cross the river?

5. Why didn’t they get a doctor for Jewel when they thought he was sick years ago?

6. Why did Cash hope that Jewel was not having an affair with a married woman?

7. Who followed Jewel to find out where he was spending all of his time?

8. Why was Tull so intent on getting Cash out of the river?

9. What happens to the Bundren’s team of mules?


(The entire section is 319 words.)

Unit 4 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What does Cora believe was the relationship between Addie and Reverend Whitfield?

2. Where does Addie go when school lets out?

3. How does Addie feel about her father?

4. Are we sure Addie’s kin are dead?

5. Who does Whitfield credit for Addie’s not confessing about their affair?

6. What kind of doctoring does Uncle Billy usually practice?

7. Why doesn’t Vardaman come in to dinner at Armstid’s house?

8. What does Moseley suggest Dewey Dell use the ten dollars for?

9. How many days has Addie been dead by the time the family arrives in Mottson?

10. What is Cash’s reaction to...

(The entire section is 301 words.)

Unit 5 Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Who tries to stop Jewel from returning to the burning barn to save Addie?

2. What is Peabody’s reaction when he sees Cash’s leg in the cement cast?

3. What reactions does the wagon get as it approaches the town of Jefferson?

4. When Anse criticizes Darl’s suggestion that they go to the hardware store to buy spades with which to dig Addie’s grave, what does Darl reply?

5. What does Jewel suggest they do with Darl before the authorities come to get him?

6. How many days has it been between Addie’s death and her burial?

7. Why was Cash surprised that Dewey Dell turned Darl in to the authorities?


(The entire section is 562 words.)