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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 23: Darl

Summary

Darl’s section provides the context for, and includes within it, Cash’s section (22).

Anse, Darl, Cash, and Jewel are responsible for taking the coffin from the house to the wagon. Anse nearly upends the coffin at the very beginning, and so does not help carry it to the wagon. Cash is trying to make sure the remaining helpers keep it balanced, but his injured foot forces him to lag behind. Jewel is leading and Darl must hurry to keep up. The coffin is finally slid roughly onto the wagon.

Notes

Faulkner is playing with narrative order again. Cash’s section does not have a context: there could be any number of reasons why it is not balanced. It is only after one has read Darl’s section that Cash’s makes sense. We can see these two sections as Faulkner’s attempt to unsettle the reader; the reader is given potentially meaningless information which must be brought together with other information and from that, the reader can construct a narrative.

SECTION 24: Vardaman

Summary

Cash and Anse are walking down the hill as Jewel, whose eyes are now like "marbles," heads into the barn. Anse says that they will all ride on the wagon like Addie would have liked, indicating that he does not want Jewel to ride beside them on his horse. Vardaman states that his mother is a fish (this could be the context for Vardaman’s previous statement/section, 17). Darl decides to play with Vardaman’s simplicity by telling him that Jewel’s mother is a horse. Vardaman knows that Jewel is his brother so then he decides that maybe his mother is a horse too. Darl explains that they could have the same father and different mothers. Jewel asks Darl who his mother is and he says he does not have one: "If I had one, it is was. And if it is was, it cant be is." Darl continues by asking Vardaman, "Then I am not, am I?" Vardaman first answers, "no," but then changes his answer to "But you are."


Vardaman tells us that Anse is now shaving every day "because my mother is a fish." He adds that Cash is taking his tools and Dewey Dell is taking Cora’s cakes to town to sell. Both of these things Anse says are disrespectful to their mother.

Notes

Jewel’s trip to the barn represents his need to find his mother (the horse), and reestablish the maternal link, just as Vardaman does with the fish.

Darl and Vardaman’s conversation reveals two different personalities. Darl is joking with Vardaman while trying to be a deep thinker. Darl questions his existence, but Vardaman, in a moment of practical clarity, states that he does exist. Darl’s metaphysics represent part of his difficulty to exist in the real world. Vardaman, while he may be simplistic, does survive.

SECTION 25: Darl

Summary

Darl watches Jewel go into the barn. He also watches Dewey Dell’s leg and tightening dress as she climbs into the wagon. Anse is upset that Jewel will not go with them to Jefferson, but Cash tells him that Jewel may catch up with them on his horse. The section ends with Anse, Darl, Cash, Dewey Dell, Vardaman, and Addie’s body leaving on the wagon.

Notes

This section is cited in conjunction with Dewey Dell’s comment that Darl had come between her and Lafe are used to argue a degree of incestuous desire between Darl and Dewey Dell. Darl’s mention of the tightening dress also indicates that the pregnancy is progressing and becoming evident if one knows to look for it.

Jewel’s absence at the beginning of the trip is significant because it separates him from the family’s death drive.

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