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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 34: Darl

Summary

After Tull, Anse, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman cross the river, Cash, Darl, and Jewel attempt to cross with Addie. Jewel rides ahead on his horse and Cash, Darl, and the coffin are on the wagon.

Cash and Darl are having a difficult time keeping the wagon on the submerged bridge. In an attempt to keep the coffin stable, cash "lays his hands flat on Addie, rocking her a little." Jewel suggests that they let him take the coffin across on his horse. Cash objects and Darl suggests that Jewel tie a rope to the wagon to help them. A log comes down the river and rams the wagon, knocking it off of the bridge. The wagon is in trouble: Cash attempts to save Addie while Darl jumps off.

Notes

The rivalry between Cash and Jewel is expressed in each one’s individual desire to take care of Addie. Cash cradles her like a baby and risks his own life at the end to save the coffin. Jewel wants to take Addie on his horse across the river. Darl is not particularly interested in a show of bravado.


SECTION 35: Vardaman

Summary

Vardaman’s account of the wagon accident in the river is mostly Vardaman calling to Darl to "save her." He tells Darl to catch her because she is a fish and is much more adept in the water than on land and can swim faster than people. According to Vardaman, Darl comes close to rescuing Addie’s coffin, but at one point Vardaman says that "Darl was strong and steady holding her under the water." Finally Darl comes out of the water but he does not have the coffin with him.

Notes

Faulkner cleverly gives Vardaman the account of Darl’s supposed rescue of Addie’s body. The way that Vardaman states it, Darl actually seems to be trying to get rid of the body by submerging it. When Darl leaves the river, it appears that this Quixotic adventure may be over.

SECTION 36: Tull

Summary

Tull focuses on Cash during the accident. Cash tries to keep the wagon and coffin balanced, but in the end gets thrown under. Cash cannot swim but is saved because he grabs hold of Jewel’s horse. Jewel has fallen off the horse when he went back to the wagon to help.

Notes

The rivalry between Cash and Jewel continues.

SECTION 37: Darl

Summary

Darl recounts the events after they have all reached the shore. Cash is unconscious on the shore. Jewel and he have made it to the shore. Vernon, Jewel, and Vardaman spend the entire section looking for Cash’s tools. The phrase repeated about Cash in this section is: "if ever was such an unfortunate man."

Anse says that this is a trial that he does not begrudge Addie, but it is his children who seem to be suffering the most. Dewey Dell wipes the vomit off Cash’s mouth with the hem of her dress.

Notes

It is important to note that Darl does not mention Addie’s corpse. While we are told in detail which of Cash’s tools are saved and where in the water they were, we are not told if Addie’s coffin was rescued. Darl does not seem very invested in getting his mother to Jefferson. He would happily be done with this trip.

The loss of Cash’s tools is a symbolic emasculation. Cash cannot be the hero if he does not have his weapons; for Cash, the tools with which he made Addie’s coffin are his weapons. It takes his brothers and a neighbor to find them; at best, Cash is a compromised hero. Dewey Dell takes on the role of Mary Magdalene when she wipes the vomit from his mouth.

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