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As They Say, “Lying”: Stream Of Consciousness In As I Lay Dying


In William Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying, the inefficient Bundren household embarks on an informing journey from their farm in Yoknapatawpha County to bury their just recently deceased and unmatronly matriarch, Addie. Composed of 59 areas narrated by 15 different individuals, Faulkner’s book is a display of male’s primal selfishness informed through several streams of consciousness that more often than not reveal inconsistent details. By using this technique and intentionally keeping significance from the reader, Faulkner continuously develops his story and talk about society’s obsession with absolute truths while, also, requiring the reader to become more active.

From the book’s start, Faulkner develops that the reader will not have things explained for them in an organized way and must manufacture, on their own, what exists. Darl, the first narrator, opens the tale with an account of a strange procession where he “turns and follows the path which circles around your home” while Jewel, who has actually been provided no background info either, “looking directly ahead, actions in a single stride through the window” with the “stiff gravity of a stogie store Indian worn patched overalls” (4 ). The scene appears ceremonial however, at the same time, confusing and random to the reader who is left with no description. This lack of information used by Faulkner, effectively, draws the reader into the story and makes them more involved as they should try and make sense of the occasions instead of taking a passive role.

In addition, Faulkner’s usage of stream of awareness highlights the truth that everybody’s understanding is special and prejudiced, but likewise accepted as the outright truth by the holder. A prime example of this is Darl’s assertion that Addie’s casket, which is being made ideal outside her window and she dies, will provide her “confidence and comfort” (5 ). On the other hand, Gem slams the casket making and scorns the “others sitting [by Addie], like buzzards” for being insensitive and cold (15 ). Both sons believe totally in their opinions and do not doubt for a 2nd that they are incorrect. This inconsistent distorted truth leads the reader to a state of skepticism where they never understand who to trust. All of Faulkner’s characters are prejudiced and, thus, all their stories can be taken just as opinion. Another example of the character’s tremendously diverse outlooks on life is when Addie’s casket falls in the river. While the youngest Bundren, Vardaman, consistently asserts that his mother is a fish, Anse complains about the difficulties he has dealt with in life and chooses that the reality that he will soon “get them teeth … will be a convenience” (111 ). Although both family members are experiencing the very same scenario, neither reacts to it in any method similar to the other. By using stream of consciousness, Faulkner straight illustrates to the reader each narrator’s organic thoughts and how they justify them. Ultimately, this can be extended as a universal observation by Faulkner of the human world- all people have a special analysis on the world and what is fact to one, may not always be reality to another.

Last but not least, Faulkner uses outsiders and their actions to reveal information that is excluded by the family. On their way to Jefferson, the Bundren wagon passes a group of pedestrians and Darl notes:

We hear abrupt voices, ejaculant. Jewel has actually been looking from side to side; now his head turns forward and I can see his ears handling a still deeper tone of furious red. 3 negroes stroll next to the roadway ahead of us; ten feet ahead of them a white guy strolls. When we pass the negroes their heads turn unexpectedly with that expression of shock and instinctive outrage. “Terrific God,” one states: “what they got in that wagon?” (229 )

Their reaction, which is an unsurprising reply to being consulted with the odor of a decomposing corpse, strangely infuriates Gem who pulls a knife on the group. Nevertheless, this incidence, also, functions as a pointer to the reader of the absurdity of the circumstance that the Bundrens remain in and, additionally, that the Bundrens lack neutrality to their circumstance. The brush with outsiders who observe that the coffin reeks adds detail to the story that would have been missing had it been just an account of the only family. Moreover, it highlights the grander fact that lots of find it hard to see and understand things from another’s point of view.

Throughout the novel, Faulkner keeps meaning and descriptions- selecting to make the reader presume for themself or await the details that are gradually revealed as the story advances. In doing so, Faulkner forces readers into ending up being immersed in his story that makes use of the “steam of awareness” narrative which, ultimately, emphasizes that every experience produces unique responses from various people.

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