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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 38: Cash

Summary

Cash’s section consists solely of the lines, "It wasn’t on balance. I told them that if they wanted to tote it and ride on a balance, they would have to."

Notes

Cash is delirious, but still maintains his devotion to balance and line. It is clear that no amount of balance would have helped them cross the river, but Cash still adheres to a belief system which posits a way. For Cash, the rules of carpentry are his religion. The answer always lies in "balance" and "line"; if things are unbalanced or out of line, they are doomed. Cash assumes as well that if they are balanced and on line, then they will succeed.

SECTION 39: Cora

Summary

Cora provides an account of Addie’s encounter with Reverend Whitfield. Cora describes a period in the past when "Brother Whitfield wrestled with her spirit, singled her out and strove with the vanity in her mortal heart." Cora states that Addie’s only sin was being partial to the son who did not love her, Jewel. Addie says that "he" is her cross and her salvation, and that "he will save me from the water and from the fire. Even though I have laid down my life, he will save me."


Notes

Cora describes the relationship between Addie and Whitfield in spiritual terms, but as we will see in the next two sections, Cora’s description is equally valid in physical terms. Although Addie does not specify Jewel, it is clear that he is the one she means when she says "he is my cross and my salvation." Jewel is also the one who will save her from water and fire. Jewel replaces God as Addie’s salvation.

SECTION 40: Addie

Summary

Addie’s section begins with her memories as a schoolteacher, and how after the children had left she would hate them. She also recalled how she would enjoy whipping them because it would make them aware of her and make her part of their lives.

More importantly, Addie tells us her father’s philosophy: "the reason for living was to get ready to stay dead a long time."

Addie mentions how she first saw Anse, and discovered that he drove four miles out of his way to drive by her school. After they meet, Anse tells her that he does not have any family. Addie says that she does, but they are all in the cemetery. When Addie gets pregnant with Cash, she realizes that "living was terrible." Addie says that words are no good because they never really fit the situation. She says that Anse’s word is "Love," but that it too is just a shape to fill a space.

After she discovers that she is pregnant with Darl, she thinks she will kill Anse. She then decides instead that her revenge will be that he will not know she is taking revenge: she asks him to take her to Jefferson when she dies.

Addie states, after Darl is born, that Anse is dead, but he just does not know it. After Darl, Addie has an affair with Whitfield that she says she kept quiet for his sake, not for hers. He eventually leaves, but she discovers that she is pregnant with Jewel. Addie then has Dewey Dell to negate Jewel, and Vardaman to make up to the one she had "robbed him of."

Notes

Addie lives her father’s philosophy. Her whole life seems dedicated to death. When she watches Cash build the coffin it is because her interests are in being dead. Addie’s desire to be buried in Jefferson represents her feeling that her family is not the Bundren's, but those in the cemetery. From the moment she met Anse, her family was already dead.

Addie claims that Anse is dead as well, but when we consider the end of the novel, it seems much more likely that Addie is preventing him from living. If Anse’s word is "love," then he becomes the opposite of Addie, whose is "death."

As a mother, Addie does not seem interested in her children. They are toils in her life. She has them out of duty or guilt. The only one she loves she must spurn to satisfy her guilt.

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