As I Lay Dying Unit 1 Summary and Analysis
by William Faulkner

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Unit 1 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Darl Bundren: main narrator; second son of Addie and Anse Bundren

Cora Tull: religious neighbor of the Bundrens, at the house for Addie’s “passing”

Kate: another neighbor and a friend of Cora Tull’s

Eula: another visitor and friend of Cora Tull’s

Miss Lawington: friend of Cora Tull’s; Cora mentions that this woman has given her advice on what type of chickens to breed and where she might sell her cakes for pocket money

Jewel Bundren: Addie’s third son

Dewey Dell: only daughter of Anse and Addie Bundren; she is quiet and sullen

Vernon Tull: Cora Tull’s husband; closest thing to a friend the Bundrens have

Dr. Peabody: country doctor called in to Addie’s death bed

Vardaman Bundren: youngest son and last Bundren child

Cash Bundren: first born son of Addie and Anse Bundren

Addie Bundren: wife and mother to the Bundren clan; she is on her deathbed having given up the desire to live

Anse Bundren: Addie’s husband; a poor farmer who is constantly whining about his problems but who manages to get others to do all his work for him

Lafe: a neighbor boy who is attracted to Dewey Dell; does not have his own narrative, but is an important part of Dewey’s narrative

Brothers Jewel and Darl Bundren, who have been working together in the field, stop working and walk the path back to their house. Neither one speaks to the other. Darl describes his brother’s rigid, grave, and cold demeanor. In the distance, the sound of a carpenter at work can be heard. It is their other brother, Cash, who is working on a casket for Addie Bundren. Darl tells us that Cash is a good carpenter.

Cora Tull narrates the next section. She is speaking with a woman named Kate about baking cakes for rich folks. Cora relies on God’s will and wisdom and does not question His plans for people. She is watching Addie Bundren, who is wasting away before her. She notes that Addie will not have everlasting salvation and grace, though she is on her deathbed. She tells the other woman that Addie is listening to her son building her casket.

Darl sees his father, a worn-out and unkempt man, on the porch with Vernon Tull. He contrasts Anse’s appearance with that of Tull, whose wife, he supposes, has some say over his dress. Darl notices Jewel calling to his horse. When it comes to him, it suddenly rears up and appears savage, terrible, and rigid. He thinks of Jewel and the horse as one figure. Jewel can control the horse, but he does it with violent gestures and curses. When he puts the horse in the stall, the horse tries to kick him, and he kicks back. Though he is very brutal with the animal, he mixes his curses with sweet words.

Jewel narrates a brief section in which he is angry at Cash for his continual sawing and hammering on the casket. He calls the others buzzards who seem to be waiting for Addie to die. He doubts the existence of God because, he says, “What the hell is He for?” Jewel imagines what it would be like if other family members had died when they had accidents. He says that there would have been no others, just he and Addie, living high on the hill. He imagines that he could protect her from the curious by throwing rocks at their faces.

Darl notes that he has never seen his father sweat. In fact, his father believes that if he ever sweats, he will die. When Darl insists that they had better go earn three dollars by finishing some job quickly, Jewel believes that their mother is not so sick that they need to rush. Anse keeps repeating how luckless he is and how terrible the situation is. He says Addie wanted to be buried in a home-built casket and put to rest in her family plot in Jefferson. Because he promised her he would follow her wishes, he insists his sons not return late so they can get to her family plot right away.

Cora compares Darl and Jewel. She says that Anse and Jewel were more interested in making money than in saying good-bye to Addie. She believes that Darl loves his mother though Addie preferred Jewel. She mentions...

(The entire section is 2,366 words.)