Although it achieved little commercial success at the time of its publication, As I Lay Dying has become one of William Faulkner’s most popular novels. At first put off by its controversial subject matter and confusing style, commentators and readers have come to appreciate the novel’s vivid characters, elusive tone, and complex narrative techniques.
As I Lay Dying chronicles the death of Addie Bundren and the subsequent journey to bury her corpse in her family’s cemetery several miles away. This disastrous and darkly comic tale is enriched by Faulkner’s innovative narrative technique, which features narration by fifteen characters, including a confused child and the dead woman, Addie. In addition, Faulkner mixes vernacular speech with “stream-of-consciousness” passages to enhance this unique narrative style.
Through his characters, Faulkner addresses subjects that challenge stereotypical perceptions of poor Southerners. For instance, characters contemplate issues of love, death, identity, and the limitations of language. Their actions and adventures draw attention to rural life, class conflicts, and the repercussions of desire and selfishness. Significantly, Faulkner explores the potent, complex workings of the human mind. Difficult to categorize, As I Lay Dying has provided a rewarding, illuminating, and, at times, unsettling experience for generations of readers.