Monday, March 19, 2012

A Review of 'As I Lay Dying' by William Faulkner

"'As I Lay Dying' was a tour de force, William Faulkner claims: 'I simply imagined a group of people and subjected them to the simple universal natural catastrophes, which are flood and fire with a simple natural motive to give direction to their progress.'  This 1930 novel is anything but simple, however.  At its heart is the Bundren family's bizarre journey to bury Addie, their wife and mother.  Faulkner lets each family member-- including the dead Addie herself-- and others along the way tell this story.  As they talk, they reveal what Addie calls her own 'secret and selfish though'-- their private reasons for undertaking the perilous journey to bury her.  'As I Lay dying' is a dazzling display of Falkner's virtuosity with the English language as well as an extraordinary examination of the essential loneliness at the core of their Mississippi family.

Boy what a trip this book was.  When I say 'trip,' I mean 'piece of work.'  Earlier this year, I and three of my classmates in my Intro to Literature class last semester opted to teach this entire book in an hour or less.  This included plot summary, leitmotifs, symbols, themes...the whole nine yards.  We picked this book thinking that it was going to be a piece of cake.  We couldn't have been more wrong.

The plot itself isn't hard to figure out.  It's a family bringing their deceased wife and mother to Jefferson to be buried.  It's everything in between that just makes you stop for a moment and stare at the page.  At least, that's what I did.

What I found most interesting was the symbolism and themes rather than the story itself.  It was almost like a treasure hunt when I was looking for animals that represented Addie and following the toolbox that represented stability within an impoverished family.

I feel terrible "dissing" this really well-known writer, but this book just wasn't my cup of tea.  The plotlessness just kind of drove me nuts, the language was hard to get through because the accents of the family members were taken into account, and I was having trouble relating to some of the characters.  I will say that I admired how Dewey tried to take control of her life, even if things didn't turn out well for her.  She was one of the few female voices in the story.

I enjoyed taking part in teaching this book immensely-- it was a good discussion book, even if no one in my group particularly cared for it (we were cool with it, but no one was ga-ga over it) and most of the other elements of the book (symbols, themes, etc.) were impeccable and fun to decipher!

Overall, this book was a challenge.  I think I will try reading it again later, but for now, I give 'As I Lay Dying':
Thanks for Reading!


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