As I Lay Dying
Goodreads ratings
3.72 / 5

"As I Lay Dying" Summary

By William Faulkner

classics | 256 pages | Published in 2013

The death and burial of Addie Bundren is told by members of her family, as they cart the coffin to Jefferson, Mississippi, to bury her among her people. And as the intense desires, fears and rivalries of the family are revealed in the vernacular of the Deep South, Faulkner presents a portrait of extraordinary power - as epic as the Old Testament, as American as Huckleberry Finn.


Estimated read time: 4 min read

One Sentence Summary

A family's journey to bury their matriarch becomes a chaotic and introspective exploration of their fractured relationships and personal struggles.


"As I Lay Dying" is a novel by American author William Faulkner, first published in 1930. The story is renowned for its distinctive narrative style, as it is told through the perspectives of fifteen different characters. Set in the rural American South during the early 20th century, the novel explores themes of grief, family, and the human condition.

Brief Synopsis

The Bundren family embarks on a journey to fulfill the dying wish of Addie Bundren, the matriarch of the family. Her wish is to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson. The family encounters numerous challenges and obstacles on their journey, and the novel delves into the complex dynamics of the family members as they grapple with their own personal dilemmas.

Plot Overview and Setting

The novel is set in Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi, a fictional setting used in many of Faulkner's works. The story mainly takes place in rural areas, with the Bundren family traveling through rugged terrain and harsh weather conditions as they make their way to Jefferson.

Main Events

1Addie Bundren's death and the family's decision to fulfill her wish
2The family begins the journey to Jefferson, facing various challenges along the way
3Cash, one of the sons, breaks his leg, adding to the family's difficulties
4The family deals with a flood, further complicating their journey
5Anse, the father, makes a controversial decision that affects the family's dynamics
6The family finally reaches Jefferson, but not without significant emotional and physical tolls

Main Characters

The novel features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own struggles and perspectives.

  • Addie Bundren: The matriarch of the family, whose death sets the journey in motion.
  • Anse Bundren: The father of the family, whose actions and decisions affect the family's fate.
  • Darl Bundren: Addie's son, who provides insight into the family's dynamics and struggles.
  • Cash Bundren: A skilled carpenter and another one of Addie's sons, dedicated to fulfilling her wish.
  • Jewel Bundren: Addie's illegitimate son, fiercely devoted to his mother.
  • Dewey Dell Bundren: Addie's only daughter, dealing with her own personal challenges.
  • Vardaman Bundren: The youngest son, whose perspective offers a unique and innocent view of the events.

Themes and Insights

Death and Grief

The novel grapples with the themes of death and the subsequent grief experienced by the family members. Each character copes with Addie's death in their own way, shedding light on the varied and complex nature of grief.

Family and Relationships

The dynamics within the Bundren family are central to the story. Faulkner explores the intricacies of family relationships, portraying the tensions, loyalties, and conflicts that arise within the family unit.

Moral Ambiguity

The characters in the novel often make morally ambiguous decisions, prompting reflection on the nature of morality and the complexities of human behavior.

Nature and Hardship

The harsh natural environment and the physical challenges faced by the family during their journey serve as a backdrop for the narrative. The novel reflects on the resilience and endurance required to overcome adversity.

Reader's Takeaway

"As I Lay Dying" offers readers a thought-provoking exploration of human nature, family dynamics, and the complexities of grief. The unique narrative style, coupled with the richly developed characters, provides a compelling reading experience that encourages introspection and contemplation.


William Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying" presents a poignant and evocative portrayal of a family's journey through hardship and adversity. The novel's enduring themes and multi-perspective narrative continue to captivate readers, making it a timeless classic in American literature.

As I Lay Dying FAQ

  1. What is the book 'As I Lay Dying' about?

    The book 'As I Lay Dying' by William Faulkner is a novel that follows the Bundren family as they journey to bury their matriarch, Addie Bundren, in her hometown. The story is told through the perspectives of multiple characters, each with their own motivations and struggles.

  2. Who are the main characters in 'As I Lay Dying'?

    The main characters in 'As I Lay Dying' include Addie Bundren, the matriarch whose death sets the story in motion; Anse Bundren, her husband; and their children, including Darl, Jewel, Cash, and Dewey Dell. Other significant characters also contribute to the narrative.

  3. What is the writing style of 'As I Lay Dying'?

    William Faulkner's writing style in 'As I Lay Dying' is known for its use of stream-of-consciousness narration, multiple perspectives, and non-linear storytelling. These techniques create a complex and rich narrative that delves into the characters' inner thoughts and emotions.

  4. What themes are explored in 'As I Lay Dying'?

    Themes in 'As I Lay Dying' include death and mourning, family relationships, the human condition, and the struggle for survival. The novel also examines the impact of poverty and rural life on the characters' experiences.

  5. Why is 'As I Lay Dying' considered a classic?

    'As I Lay Dying' is considered a classic due to its innovative narrative techniques, complex characters, and profound exploration of human nature. Faulkner's portrayal of the Bundren family's journey has earned the novel enduring acclaim and scholarly interest.