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Free Study Guide-As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner-Free Book Notes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

SECTION 10: Darl

Summary

This brief section occurs between Darl and Jewel as they are riding in the wagon. The majority of the section is Darl thinking, but he does ask Jewel a few questions, which are not answered.

The section begins with Darl asking Jewel, "Do you know she is going to die?" Jewel does not answer and Darl drifts on into thinking about his own philosophy of humankind: "It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That is how the world is going to end."

Darl then reflects back on a conversation he had had with Dewey Dell. He asks her rhetorically if she wants Addie to die so she can go to town to get an abortion. She will not answer him, but only says, "Are you going to tell pa? Are you going to kill him?" The conversation between Darl and Dewey Dell never mentions pregnancy, sex, or abortion, because the idea is that if it is spoken, then it will be true. Darl ends the conversation by saying "you cannot believe that Dewey Dell . . . could have such bad luck." We know she is unlucky and naive, and it will only get worse.

The section ends with Darl comparing the setting sun to a "bloody egg" and thinking about how when Peabody comes they will have to haul him up to the house with a rope because he is so fat. Darl asks Jewel one more time, "Jewel . . . do you know that Addie Bundren is going to die?"


Notes

By framing the section with Darl asking Jewel if he knows that his mother will die, Faulkner contrasts the two brothers. Darl knows what is going on and is willing to speak it; Jewel, if he knows, is like Dewey Dell, and refuses to speak.

Darl’s philosophy of life suggests that life is a solitary journey. One may begin as the product of two people coming together, but one dies alone. We can see that even within the family, Darl is alone. When he talks to Jewel or Dewey Dell, they fail to communicate. Darl’s interactions seem to be monologues.

The passage about Dewey Dell begins to clarify events for the reader. We begin to see that she too has motives for going to Jefferson: she needs an abortion. Dewey Dell’s pregnancy reveals the degree to which language is unspoken or layered. Because Dewey Dell will not say anything and Darl speaks only generally, we can decipher that she is pregnant and wanting an abortion. We are shown how language can say little on the surface but hold the truth just below it.

Darl remarks that the sun is like a "bloody egg" immediately after the Dewey Dell reflection and thinks that the sky looks portentous. Since Darl already knows that Addie is dying, the portent can only be for the trip, or more likely, for Dewey Dell, who is now pregnant, whose egg has been fertilized (chicken eggs that have been fertilized have a mark of blood on them).

The final question to Jewel is specific. Instead of merely using the pronoun "she," Darl uses Addie Bundren’s full name. Darl wants to make sure there is no ambiguity in the question, but Jewel still refuses to respond.

SECTION 11: Peabody

Summary

Peabody’s account of the final trip to the Bundren’s house is mostly informative, but does provide some insight into the central characters. When Peabody gets the call to come to the house, he knows that it will be the last time because only Anse would wait so long and only Anse is so luckless to need a doctor "in the face of a cyclone."

Because Jewel is not around to catch the horse, Peabody must be hauled up the hill to the house, a point that he, at seventy- five years and two hundred twenty-five pounds, obviously does not appreciate.

When Peabody enters Addie’s room, he remarks that she has been dead for ten days but by being around Anse for so long, she does not realize it. He adds that when he was young he had thought that death was a phenomenon of the body, but now he understands it to be a phenomenon of the mind. He then provides a little breadth to the issue, pointing out that the nihilists see it as the end and the fundamentalists see it as the beginning, but it fact it is nothing more than a tenant moving out.

After Peabody examines her, he asks Anse why he did not call for him sooner, and Anse replies that things kept coming up and he knew she was dying anyway. Peabody comments to himself that Anse is even more rooted than a tree, having not been to town in twelve years. He then states that Addie’s eyes look like "lamps blaring up just before the oil is gone" and that he can "feel her eyes."

The section ends with Addie calling out to Cash while he is sawing, "Cash . . . you Cash!"

Notes

This section is relatively straightforward, coming from the doctor. Peabody’s character reveals Faulkner’s infusion of dark comedy into a book about death. The depiction of Peabody being hauled up the muddy hill by a rope forces the reader to address this novel as something more than just "tragic." There is a definite comic, and life-affirming, theme in As I Lay Dying.

Peabody also show the flaws with Anse’s rooted philosophy, namely that it can lead to a certain inaction at times. He presents as well his own view of death, which is little more than the mind moving out of the body.

When Peabody comments on Addie’s eyes, we know the end is close. The specific mention of her eyes connects her with Jewel, whose eyes are like wood, and with Vardaman, who drills out her eyes.

Her last words reveal her focus on death: she wants to make sure her coffin is being finished well.

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