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Unit 4 Summary and Analysis

New Characters:
Lula: Armstid’s wife

Snopes: a horsetrader; nephew to Flem; sold new mules to the Bundrens after theirs drown

Eustace Grimm: a man who works for Snopes

Moseley: pharmacist in the town of Mottson

Albert: Moseley’s assistant

The Marshal: nameless marshal for the town of Mottson

Suratt: a man who had a talking machine to sell

Grummet: owner of the hardware store in Mottson

Summary
Cora relates discussions she had with Addie about sin and salvation. Cora says Addie was never really religious, not even after Brother Whitfield tried so hard to save her soul. Though Addie insists that she has sinned and suffered for it, Cora tells her that she cannot know what sin is. Cora believes Addie’s biggest sin was in preferring Jewel (whom she says never loved her) over Darl (who was touched by God and did love her). When Cora asks her what her salvation will be, Addie responds “He will save me from the water and from the fire. Even though I have laid down my life, he will save me.” Cora realizes Addie does not mean God, but Jewel. She prays for Addie’s soul because she says she has committed sacrilege.

Addie’s narrative informs us that she used to be a schoolteacher. She despised the schoolchildren and looked forward to whipping them so they would be aware of her. She says her father taught her that the reason for living was to prepare to stay dead for a long time.

She says she “took Anse.” She noticed him loitering around the school where she taught, trying to get up the nerve to speak to her. He proposed to her and said he had no relatives. She said she had relatives in Jefferson but that they were all dead. She has never had any other kind.

After they married and she gave birth to Cash, she felt violated and alone. She was angry with Anse and herself for getting pregnant with Darl and made Anse promise to take her back to Jefferson when she died. Addie is preoccupied with the meaninglessness of words. She is disappointed in her marriage, because she does not communicate with Anse. She says that he is dead to her. She has an affair with the preacher, whom she meets in the woods. However, when it is over, she does not miss him. While having the affair, she does not give herself to Anse. When the affair has been over two months, she realizes that she is pregnant with the preacher’s child, Jewel. She says she gave Anse Dewey Dell as a way of negating Jewel. She gave him Vardaman to make up for the child which should have been his. She says that now that Anse has three children which are his, not hers, she can prepare to die. She criticizes people like Cora Tull and says that prayer and salvation are just words to them. They do not understand what the words mean.

Whitfield, in his narrative, reveals that he confessed his sin (adultery) to God on discovering that Addie was dying. He says that God commanded him to correct the sin by asking Anse to forgive him. He journeys to the Bundren house considering how he will confess to Anse and ask his forgiveness. He wants to confess to Anse, because he is afraid Addie might make the confession first, on her deathbed. Whitfield considers the floods and dangers he encounters on the way there to be a test of his intention. Because he forges ahead in the storm, he believes he is in earnest. When Tull’s youngest girl informs him that Addie is already dead, Whitfield praises God and says that her death is proof that God accepted the will for the deed. He no longer believes it is incumbent upon him to confess, especially since Addie did not tell anyone. He enters the house and gives it God’s blessing.

Darl tells us that, in addition to injuring his leg again, Cash also might have been kicked in the stomach by the horse. Armstid offers to put the family up overnight. The soaking of the coffin helped take away some of the stench which had been making people avoid them. Cash is taken into the house to be looked after by the women. Uncle Billy tries to set Cash’s leg until they can get...

(The entire section is 2,328 words.)