As I Lay Dying
William Faulkner
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
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Character Analysis
Darl Bundren

One of the fifteen narrators. The second oldest son of the Bundren family. Darl is the first and most important narrator of the novel. He is sensitive, intuitive, and intelligent, and his monologues are some of the most eloquent; they are also a more intricate representation of the process of thought. Some of the interior monologues are fairly straightforward, but Darl’s passages are stream-of-consciousness narrative. For much of the novel, he acts as a kind of narrative anchor. One of the challenges of the novel is the complete absence of an objective third-person narrator. Everything we know about these characters is told to us through the lens of a subjective speaker; because of Darl’s sensitivity and isolation from the other characters, most readers come to rely heavily on his version of events. He is eloquent, intelligent, and isolated. He ends up being put in an asylum.

Vardaman Bundren

One of the fifteen narrators. The youngest son of the family, and the second most frequently used narrator of the novel. Vardaman seems to teeter on the brink of mental collapse early on. His mother’s death is extremely traumatizing, and his sensitive and imaginative nature is thrown out of balance by the event. He is at an age where he is becoming conscious of his status as a country boy (as opposed to a town boy), and he wonders why it should be so. He has a special bond with Darl.

Addie Bundren

One of the fifteen narrators. Mother of the family. Gravely ill at the start of the novel, she dies early on. She has always wanted to be buried among her birth family in Jefferson. Once a schoolteacher, she married Anse and gave birth to four children by him: Cash, Darl, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman. She also had a secret affair with Whitfield, resulting in the birth of Jewel. The transport of her body is the main event of the novel.

Anse Bundren

One of the fifteen narrators. Patriarch. Anse is maddeningly stupid and lazy. He unimaginatively applies himself to his wife’s wish, but the physical and mental cost to his family is tremendous. He is a begrudging father, without real love or concern for his children. There is nothing overtly hostile about him; mostly he comes off as a weak and irritating man, but his decisions cause real harm throughout the book.

Cash Bundren

One of the fifteen narrators. Oldest son of the Bundren family. Cash is a carpenter, and his identity is wrapped up in his work. Although his monologues are few in number and unrevealing for most of the novel, his voice comes to dominate the closing events. He lacks Darl’s sublime imagination and sensitivity, but he is nonetheless a relatively compassionate and trustworthy narrator.

Jewel

One of the fifteen narrators. Middle child of the Bundrens. Secretly, he is the illegitimate child of the minister Whitfield. Jewel is a fiery and physical being. He is hot-tempered and impatient. He loves horses and is physically powerful.

Dewey Dell

One of the fifteen narrators. Only daughter of the Bundren family, and the second youngest child. Dewey Dell’s monologues are characterized by unarticulated wishes, powerful but poorly misunderstood emotions, and fatigue. She is pregnant and is secretly seeking an abortion.

Vernon Tull

One of the fifteen narrators. A neighboring, wealthier farmer. Tull is often frustrated by Anse’s laziness. He has helped Anse a great deal over the years, and his family helps the Bundrens during and after Addie’s death.

Cora Tull

One of the fifteen narrators. Vernon’s extremely religious wife. Cora has a special love for Darl, whom she recognizes as special. Often, her religious beliefs make her an extremely judgmental person.

Eula Tull

Daughter of Vernon and Cora.

Kate Tull

Daughter of Vernon and Cora. She predicts that Anse will have a new wife soon if Addie dies.

Peabody

One of the fifteen narrators. The doctor of the county. He is elderly and overweight, but he continues to work. Anse’s stupidity maddens him. He tends to Addie and later to Cash.

Samson

One of the fifteen narrators. Local farmer. He puts up the Bundrens on the first night of their journey.

Whitfield

One of the fifteen narrators. Local minister. Father of Jewel. Years ago, he had a secret affair with Addie.

Armstid

One of the fifteen narrators. Farmer who puts up the Bundrens for several nights.

Gillespie

Farmer who puts up the Bundrens for a night. Darl burns his barn down.

MacGowan

One of the fifteen narrators. Assistant in a town store. He tricks Dewey Dell into believing he is a doctor, and peddles a bogus abortion treatment to her in exchange for sex.

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