William Faulkner Questions for English 222 American Literature, CSU Fullerton

E222 FAULKNER QUESTIONS, CSU FULLERTON

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WILLIAM FAULKNER

As I Lay Dying (Norton Vol. D 698-793).

1. There are many narrative voices or "consciousnesses" in Faulkner's As I Lay Dying -- the Bundren family (Anse, Addie, Darl, Vardaman, Cash, Dewey Dell, and Jewel), neighbors Cora and Vernon Tull and others (Peabody, Whitfield, Samson, Armstid, Mosely, and MacGowan). Trace the development of one of the more significant characters through several sections in which that character's words and consciousness are the central factor. Namely, what is revealed about the character, and to what extent does he or she seem to change from one section to the next that you examine?

2. In Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, which relies on a multiplicity of narrative voices to tell its story, it makes sense to suppose that a given character is best understood not simply by means of what he or she says but also, or even primarily, by means of what others think and say. In other words, an individual's identity in Faulkner seems to be made out of a constantly woven and unwoven web of interactions, desires, and assumptions on the part of various characters. Discuss an instance in which we learn at least as much about a given character in this manner as we do from anything that character actually says or is said to be thinking.

3. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying is obviously complex in its way of narrating a tale (non-linear, at times fragmentary, partially stream-of-consciousness-based, etc.), but it nonetheless tells a coherent story about the death of Addie Bundren and the quest of the remaining Bundrens (all of them with troubles of their own) to transport her body to Jefferson, Mississippi. Choose one relatively brief section of the text that you find easiest to comprehend and explain how it helps you understand some other section or aspect of the text that you find more difficult to follow.

4. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying might well be interpreted as unfolding in a fundamentally "comic" fictional universe (the author sets most of his tales, this one included, in a fictional but realistic place called Yoknapatawpha County, modeled somewhat after Lafayette County, Mississippi), meaning that in spite of much sadness and misfortune (Addie's death, Darl's eventual madness, Cash's leg injury made even worse by a cement cast, Dewey Dell's unwanted pregnancy, etc.), the story ends on a note of renewal, not despair. Choose one significant event or aspect of the text that you think fits this notion of a comic universe rather than a tragic one. Alternately, you might choose something about the story that you think cannot be subsumed under that heading or concept, and explain why.