Sunday, June 08, 2008

As I Lay Dying by William Faulker

What a fascinating, masterful, unusual and utterly depressing book. I most certainly didn't like this book, but I felt like I really got something out of it. I found some of the characters hateful, ignorant and frankly repugnant but the stream of consciousness style, the fifteen different first person narrators, and the sympathetic and thoughtful characters like Cash, Darl and Vernon Tull made this book truly worth the struggle to get through it. Once I finished it, about thirty minutes ago, I spent the last thirty minutes researching the book, motifs, themes, symbols, all those good English lit class words that I've missed since college. This book was a challenge but it also reminded me how much I used to enjoy immersing myself in a complex fictional world, trying to parse out what feelings and thoughts the author was attempting to illict from the reader, and drawing my own conclusions. I think I'll read more Faulkner soon, but I'm going to need a little break first.

The poverty, lack of education, and sheer selfishness of some of the resident's in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County really made me struggle to figure out what the aristocratic Faulkner was trying to say about his rural, poor, fellow Southerners. Is he mocking them? Is he delving into the depths of their thoughts using visual and sensory techniques since their lack of education generally prevents his characters from using language to skillfully represent their own thoughts? Does he use the better educated characters, like Addie, to show some of his own lack of belief in the power of words to describe elements like love and family? I'm fascinated by Faulkner's style and Southern setting but it isn't the type of book that speaks to me or that I could say that I love. I love the challenge and I feel satisfied that I finished the book. But most high school and college students can say the same thing. I think my favorite part of the book was Addie's chapter in the middle where she shines such a bright life on her own life. Since she's dead for most of the book, her chapter in the middle was so enlightening, cynical, lonely, sad and heavily wrapped up in Christian sin and punishment, but it really allowed me to understand her bleak hatred of being trapped into her roles as a wife and mother. I finally felt like I understood the book, and frankly the point of the book. The other part that I really liked, mostly because the absurdity made me laugh out, was when Addie's widow, Anse, buries Addie on a Saturday, steals money from his daughter, and on Sunday buys some new false teeth and a new wife! Ridiculous.

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