As I Lay Dying Part I Summary

     As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner utilizes many narrators to continually change perspectives as it follows the Bundren family from the time just before their mother dies through the process of burying her. The first chapter starts with Darl describing the family's dilapidated house in front of which his brother Cash is sawing wood. Cash is actually building a coffin for his mother, Addie, who is dying. Cora, a neighbor and friend of Addie's then narrates and mentions her husband Vernon and their daughters. The women made cakes that another neighbor Miss Lawington had asked before but then decided she didn't need. Addie's husband, Anse, is then introduced. Missing most of his teeth, Anse doesn't seem to do much work around his house since he has five children, including four boys, to do it for him. Jewel, his third son, is shown to have a temper as he swears at, kicks, and strikes the horses. In Jewel's narration he mentions that his brother Cash fell off a church a while back and injured himself. Dewey Dell, his younger sister, stays by their mother's side, fanning her. Despite Addie being near death, Anse forces Jewel and Darl to take the wagon into town to sell something in order to return with three dollars. Jewel, his mother's favorite, had no problem leaving, but Darl was upset. Cora, a devout Christian, is upset by the way Anse treats his family.

     When Dewey Dell narrates, she tells about a time when she and Lafe went picking in the woods, which led to them having sex. Her brother Darl saw them, but he didn't tell anyone. In Tull's chapter Vardaman catches a fish that he wants to show to his mother. In Anse's chapter he bemoans his bad luck. It looks like rain, and he promised his wife that when she died, they would bury her in Jefferson with her relatives. Dr. Peabody narrates because he is called to the house to help Addie although it is too late to do anything. Addie calls out to Cash, whom she has been watching through her bedroom window as he builds her coffin, just before she dies. Jewel and Darl are not there when it happens, but somehow Darl knows. Cash appears to be in shock, Dewey Dell tries to grieve, but Anse hurries her along to get supper ready for the family. Dewey Dell is angry at her dad. She also secretly wishes she could talk to Dr. Peabody about a problem that she has. Anse is thinking about how he can finally get new teeth. Vardaman flees the room and runs to the barn. He takes out his anger on the animals. Dewey Dell finds Vardaman hiding in the barn as she thinks about Lafe and how Dr. Peabody could help her because she appears to be pregnant and wants an abortion.

     When Vardaman comes back to the house, he is concerned that Cash is going to nail his mother into the coffin. His naive mind doesn't want her trapped in there although he seems to believe her soul has jumped into the fish that he caught. Then when they eat it, they will all have a small piece of their mother inside of them. When Tull answers his door late that night, he finds Vardaman there, drenched from the rain, having walked four miles from his house. Cora figures out that Addie has died, so they drive Vardaman back home. That night Vardaman bores holes into the lid of the coffin that they nailed over Addie, but they learn that he drilled too far, and he left two holes in her face.

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