Study Guide of As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
Despite having gained minimal traction at the time of original publication, As I lay Dying has come to be regarded as William Falkner’s most prominent novels. Critics and readers alike were confused and put off by the books controversial subject matter, however, modern day readers and commentators have grown to appreciate the strong characters, abstract tone and striking narrative prose.
This is the fifth novel written by William Faulkner, it is deemed to be one of his finest writings and one of the best 20th century novels in American literature.
The book is divided into 59 chapters and used the first-person narration by 15 characters, changing from one character to another.
As I Lay Dying is an account of the death of Addie Bundren and the journey to inter her body in the family burial plot several miles away. This catastrophic and darkly comedic tale is enhanced by Faulkner’s pioneering narrative technique, featuring narration by fifteen characters, including a child and the dead woman herself. Additionally, Faulkner included vernacular speech with ‘stream of consciousness’ passages to improve his unique style.
Faulkner uses his characters to address controversial subjects that typically challenge that conventional perceptions of disadvantaged Southerners. For example, the characters regularly consider issues of death, love, identity, and their own limitations. Their journey calls attention to rural life, conflict and the consequences of selfishness and desire.
The book was adapted and made into a movie that was directed by and starred James Franco in 2013. The movie won several awards.