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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 51: Vardaman

Summary

Vardaman’s section takes place after the fire. No one knows where Darl is. Vardaman tells us that he had been in the barn looking for buzzards before it had burned.

Vardaman’s focus shifts to Cash, whose leg is now black. Cash is awake and Gillespie cannot understand why they put the cement on Cash’s leg without greasing it first. The cement cracks but only comes off with effort and all the skin. Anse blames the cementing job on Darl. Vardaman adds that Cash’s leg looks like Jewel’s burnt back.

Vardaman then states that Darl is under the apple tree, lying on top of the coffin, crying. Vardaman thinks he is trying to keep the cat from sitting on the coffin and is crying because she was almost destroyed.

Notes

We now know how Vardaman knows that Darl did something: he was looking for the buzzards and saw Darl in the barn. However, Vardaman probably does not know what he did. Dewey Dell is the one who most likely figured out that if Darl was in the barn before it burned, then he did it. She also knows that if anyone else knew he was in the barn, they would figure it out too. She needs to protect Darl’s secret because he is protecting hers.

Anse is becoming less responsible. Even though most, if not all, of the problems which happen on this trip can be traced to him, Anse tries to blame others, namely his children. It is not Darl’s fault that the cement was misapplied. Anse did not stop for a doctor and there is no reason that Darl should know how to properly apply cement to a bleeding and broken leg (if there even is a proper way).


When we find out that Darl is lying and crying on top of Addie’s coffin, we know that he is feeling utterly defeated. He has tried to get rid of the body in the river, and now in the fire, but it keeps coming back. This trip for Darl is one into madness. He is haunted by his mother, who has despised him since his conception, even after she has died. The fact that Darl tried to burn the coffin less than a day before they were to arrive in Jefferson suggests one of two possibilities: either Darl does not expect this disastrous journey to ever end, or, he wants to deny his mother the promise that she exacted from Anse when she found out she was pregnant with Darl. Darl is convinced that his mother, with the help of Jewel whom she loved, has defeated him.

SECTION 52: Darl

Summary

As they approach the outskirts of Jefferson, Darl and Jewel are walking behind the wagon. Dewey Dell says she needs to stop to relieve herself and takes her package. Anse cannot figure out why she needs her cakes with her to urinate. When she returns, she is in her Sunday dress, complete with shoes, stockings, and beads.

Jewel passes a man walking and the road and whirls around at that moment and says "sons of bitches" to three other men walking on ahead; the man assumes it was directed at him and takes offense. The man says "bastard" which sets Jewel off; the man pulls a knife and a Darl is barely able to prevent a fight.

Notes

Here is where we discover that there are no cakes. Dewey Dell’s "package" is clothes and her cash.

Jewel’s response to the man’s epithet indicates that what he said was "bastard"; we are never told but that is the only thing that would create such a response in Jewel. His response further supports the idea that Jewel knows he is not Anse’s son but is in severe denial.

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