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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 13: Vardaman

Summary

Vardaman’s section picks up immediately after he leaves Addie’s room. He runs from the house and immediately thinks of the fish: "It is cut up into pieces of not-fish now, not blood on my hands and overalls." The pronoun the switches to she: "she is getting so far ahead I cannot catch her." Vardaman has completed the fish-mother association, shifting in his mind from fish to not-fish to mother. He also makes the association between Peabody’s arrival and his mother’s death and so he sees Peabody as the one who killed his mother.

Vardaman runs around spasmodically, crying and vomiting, and ultimately ends up in the horse stall but cannot find the horse. Because Peabody is fat and the horse is big, he is look to hurt the horse-Peabody for killing his fish-mother. Vardaman finally finds the horse in the wagon shed and begins striking it and yelling "You kilt my maw!"


He leaves the shed and enters the barn, passing a cow that needs to be milked, but Vardaman tells it that he won’t do anything to help "them." The cow approaches with its "sweet, hot, hard breath," but Vardaman only pushes it away. The cow nudges at him again, moaning, but he then starts running at it and the cow leaves. The barn is now empty and functions for him as a womb image; the barn is described as "warm" and "silent" where he can "cry quietly."

Cash limps, from the injury acquired when he fell off the church, up the hill looking for the horses, and then limps away after Vardaman says that have fled. Vardaman then cries again to himself, saying, "I am not anything." Dewey Dell calls for him but he doesn’t respond, and, according to Vardaman, finds the fish and takes it to cook.

The narrative shifts to a more metaphysical tone. Vardaman says he can hear wood, silence. He then smells cooling flesh and ammoniac hair and sees a splotched hide and strong bones. He feels that there is something familiar about this, and "is different from my is." By the end of this paragraph, Vardaman is clearly talking about the horse. The section ends with the phrase, "Cooked and et."

Notes

Vardaman is confused and angry. He does not know how to deal with the deal of his mother, so he lashes out associatively. He attacks Peabody’s horses because the horses represent Peabody whose arrival marks the death of his mother. He avoids the cow, which will represent sensuality to Dewey Dell in favor of solitude. The barn becomes for his a womb where he can reconnect with his lost mother. While in the barn, he drifts into a dream-like state where he smells the silence of wood, which symbolizes the wooden coffin. From the wood he smells the cooling flesh which can be both his mother and the fish; the hair could be the mother or the horse; the splotched hide and bones could be mother, fish, or horse. All of these images come together for Vardaman and reflect his difficulty in separating reality from association

The "is different from my is" anticipates Darl (section 17). By understanding a difference in being, Vardaman is slowly creating a since of who he is, not much, but a little. He knows that he is not his mother, his is not the fish, and he is not the horse.

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