As I Lay Dying Unit 3 Summary and Analysis
by William Faulkner

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Unit 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Samson: distant neighbor to the Bundrens who lets them stay overnight at his barn when they are on their way to Jefferson

MacCallum: distant neighbor to the Bundrens

Rachel: Samson’s wife

Flem Snopes: man who brought a number of wild horses to town; Jewel’s horse is related to a Snopes’ horse

Some neighbors and townspeople, watching the Bundren wagon pass, believe that Addie has been buried already and that the Bundrens are just traveling. In attempting to notify them that the bridge is washed out, Quick notices the stench from the wagon and realizes it’s Addie’s corpse. When Quick and Samson both try to convince Anse to bury Addie in nearby New Hope, Dewey Dell becomes frightened that she will not be able to find the doctor or medicine she needs for an abortion. She convinces her father to stick to Addie’s request to be buried in Jefferson. The Bundrens decline Samson’s offer to let them sleep in the house and try to decline eating with their hosts. Samson’s wife, Rachel, is outraged that Anse has been toting Addie’s corpse around for four days. In the morning, after the Bundrens have left the barn, Samson says that he can still smell and sense that death has been there. As he turns to leave, he thinks he sees someone who has been left behind. However, it is a buzzard which slowly exits the barn while watching Samson over his shoulder.

Dewey Dell is afraid that Darl will convince Anse to bury Addie at New Hope. She fantasizes about killing him. Darl taunts both Dewey Dell and Jewel about his ability to convince Anse to stop in New Hope.

Tull finds the family at the river crossing. The bridge is half under water, and Anse sits in his wagon, staring at the situation as if he welcomes hardship. Dewey Dell is vexed. Tull asks Darl’s opinion about attempting to cross the river. He says that Darl looks at people as if he is inside of them and knows everything they are doing. Tull thinks this is why people consider Darl peculiar. When Tull suggests they wait another day to see if the river falls, Jewel tells him to go to hell. He is determined to cross the river. Vardaman, Dewey Dell, and Anse will walk across the bridge, and Tull and the three older boys will lead the wagon across. Tull refuses to use his mule to help cross.

Darl recalls when Jewel was fifteen. He says his brother was getting thinner and falling asleep while working. Addie worried about him, but Anse insisted that he had to help out with the work. Addie prepared extra food for him and sat up by his bed, worrying over him. Cash and Darl thought he was having an affair with some girl or married woman because Jewel began to stay out all night. Dewey Dell does Jewel’s milking and other chores. Five months later, they discovered that Jewel was working an extra job in order to buy a fancy, spotted horse from Quick. Anse was angry at Jewel and acted as if the horse cost the family money. Cash supported Jewel and said it cost them nothing. An angry Jewel told Anse that he would kill the horse rather than feed it from Anse’s store of grain. That night, Addie cried by Jewel’s bed as he slept, and Darl indicates that it was then he knew something about Addie’s relationship to Jewel.

Tull helps Vardaman, Anse, and Dewey Dell across the bridge. He warns them that it would be better to wait another day before crossing; the river might fall enough to make crossing easier. Anse just repeats that he gave Addie his word that he would take her to Jefferson. He will not be swayed. Tull is angry and cannot understand why one more day would matter. He thinks they are more concerned with getting to Jefferson to eat a sack of bananas.

Darl and Cash are on the wagon when they cross the river, while Jewel crosses on his horse. The oaks which used to mark the fording place in the river have been cut down. Jewel goes ahead, on horseback, to feel out the shallowest part for crossing. Vernon Tull, on the bank, waves them farther downstream. They find the...

(The entire section is 1,893 words.)