"I set out deliberately to write a tour-de-force. Before I ever put pen to paper and set down the first word I knew what the last word would be and almost where the last period would fall." - William Faulkner
Never able to make a living on the sales of his novels alone, Faulkner drafted As I Lay Dying in 1930 while he was working the night shift at a power plant. As the story goes, Faulkner was so determined to craft his masterpiece that he completed it in about seven weeks. He clearly succeeded, and the result is one of the twentieth century's finest and most beloved novels.
In As I Lay Dying, the Bundren children set off on a journey to fulfill their mother, Addie's, dying wish, only to be stymied by an almost biblical series of events. At once absurd and profound, it is the story of a family's single-minded commitment to honor their mother and surmount obstacles in their way while wrestling with personal desires and crises of their own.
As I Lay Dying has a clearly delineated plot line. However, the way the story is presented was in Faulkner's day an experimental narrative technique. Removing himself completely as an author-narrator figure, Faulkner breaks his story into 59 separate monologues, each spoken or thought by one of 15 characters. There is no description of a character or action outside of the way the characters see themselves, one another and the events in which they are involved.
At the heart of the novel beats a family's response to the loss of the most important person in their lives. They laugh, they curse, they fight, they bleed, they break, they love, they endure—just like we do.
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