As I Lay Dying Suggested Essay Topics
by William Faulkner

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Suggested Essay Topics

Unit 1
1. Describe the setting by examining the words and phrases used to depict the Bundrens’ home and the surrounding elements (weather, sky, etc).

2. Select a character (Jewel, Darl, or Anse) and compare and contrast the ways in which he is described by other narrators who talk about him.

3. Examine the ways in which each of the characters in this first section view Addie Bundren on her deathbed and discuss their emotional responses to her death (for example, sympathetic, caring, worried, etc.).

4. In the first part of the novel, we learn that Anse Bundren’s wife is on her deathbed. By making a close study of what Anse talks about and says how does he feel about his wife’s impending death? What does Anse’s main concern seem to be?

Unit 2
1. Examine the narratives which connect any one of the following pairs and discuss how the narrators—and Faulkner —use animal imagery: Jewel and his horse; Dewey Dell and the cows; Addie and the fish; Anse and a steer.

2. Anse claims that he is being chastised by God. Describe the physical and personality changes he undergoes after Addie’s death. Discuss whether his life now seems to be better, worse, or the same as it was.

3. Describe Vardaman Bundren’s reaction to his mother’s death and the way his response is treated by others. As a grieving child, what does Vardaman seem to be lacking?

4. Faulkner makes the relationship between some characters clear fairly early in the novel. For example, it is easy to see the tension between Darl and Jewel. Examine Cash’s narratives, what he says, and what others say about him. What kind of person does cash seem to be?What are his main concerns? How does it seem that the other characters view him?

Unit 3
1. Compare and contrast Cora Tull’s language with that of Jewel and discuss how it serves to develop each character.

2. Examine Dewey Dell’s narrative. What does it tell us about her relationship with her mother, with Darl, and with God? Discuss whether or not she believes in God.

3. Study Darl’s narrative which describes how Jewel got his horse. Describe what his narrative tells us about the relationship of the parents and children in the Bundren household.

4. The washed out bridge is the first real obstacle which the Bundrens encounter on the journey to Jefferson. Each one reacts differently to the problem. Discuss their reactions and how each reaction is appropriate to that character. How is the outcome of the crossing typical of Jewel’s actions in general?

Unit 4
1. By examining the three portraits of Whitfield from this section—Cora’s, Addie’s, and Whitfield’s own self-portrait—and relying on the information presented, create a composite description of what you think Whitfield is actually like.

2. How does the exchange between Moseley and Dewey Dell demonstrate Addie’s contention that words themselves are meaningless and do not permit people to connect?

3. The section of the novel permits us a closer look at the relationship between Jewel and his horse. Through a close examination of Jewel’s actions and words, the...

(The entire section is 792 words.)