Ideas for Group Discussions
Faulkner employs a challenging, experimental narrative style in As I Lay Dying, a portrait of a southern farming family.
1. In interviews, years after the publication of As I Lay Dying, Faulkner repeatedly talked about his novel as a tour de force that he wrote in six weeks without doing much revision. The novel, he has said, appeared whole in his mind; all he had to do was write it down. Manuscript study tends to discount the exaggerated nature of these claims, but certainly Faulkner wrote and revised the novel quickly. Does the art hold up in this novel, or has the speed of the novel's composition led Faulkner to commit mistakes?
2. Faulkner has been a political writer in terms of race, class and the environment. Can As I Lay Dying be called a political work, and if so, about what?
3. What kind of person is Addie Bundren? What kind of mother and wife? How has Addie affected the lives of her children? Who has the power in their marriage, Addie or Anse?
4. What bothers Addie about the birth of Darl? Why doesn't she recognize him or love him?
5. What causes Addie to have an affair with Whitfield? What causes her to end the affair?
6. Many commentators think Vardaman is simply crazy when he parallels his mother and a fish. How does Vardaman make the connection, and what stages do we see in his response to Addie's death?
7. Why does Darl assert that Jewel's mother is a horse? What is the connection between the horse and Addie in Jewel's mind?
8. After reading a good source on interior monologues, such as Robert Humphrey's Stream of Conscioumess in the Modern Novel (1954) or similar more contemporary books such as those by Dorrit Conn, characterize Faulkner's use of the interior monologue.
9. Most of the adaptations of Faulkner's novel have been for the stage. What features in As I Lay...
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