2. What type of marriage do you think Anse and Addie have? How do you feel about Anse as a father and a husband? How do Addie's children feel about her?
3. Discuss what the involvement of Doctor Peabody and Cora and Vernon Tull in the Bundrens' saga says about the importance of community in country life.
4. What does Cash's list of the 13 reasons for beveling the edges of the coffin tell us about him?
5. As far as we know, Dewey Dell hasn't told anyone about her pregnancy. Do you think she's incapable of articulating her condition in words, or do you think Faulkner meant her to be representative of the times?
6. How does Vardaman come to the conclusion that "My mother is a fish" (p. 84)? As you continue reading, look for other ways Vardaman attempts to keep his mother alive.
2. Faulkner allows Darl and Vardaman to express themselves in language that would be impossible given their lack of education and experience in the world. Why does Faulkner break with the realistic representation of character in this way?
3. Which are the most sympathetic voices in the novel? Discuss which characters you most and least identify with.
4. What does Darl's tale of how Jewel bought his first horse reveal about Jewel's personality and his relationship with his family?
5. What does the novel reveal about the ways in which human beings deal with death, grieving, and letting go of loved ones?
6. Is Tull and Jewel's search in the river for Cash's tools an act of love or obligation?
2. On pages 173–174, Addie meditates on the distance between words and actions. Is Faulkner saying that words—his own chosen medium—are inadequate? What do Addie's definitions say about her as a woman?
3. Anse Bundren alone thrives in the midst of disaster. What was his real reason for wanting to go to Jefferson? Who else gets what they came for?
4. Humor and the grotesque are often interdependent in this novel, such as Vardaman's accidental drilling of holes in his dead mother's face so she can breathe, the family setting Cash's broken leg in cement and the family's apparent imperviousness to the stench of Addie's rotting corpse. What are other examples? What was your reaction to such moments?
5. Darl is able to describe Addie's death when he is not present and intuit Dewey Dell's pregnancy. What does this uncanny visionary power mean, particularly in the context of what happens to Darl at the end of the novel?
6. The Bundrens must endure a number of obstacles on their way to Jefferson. To what extent are the elements against them, and to what extent do they sabotage themselves?
7. What compels loyalty in this family? What are the ways in which that loyalty is betrayed? Who do you feel makes the ultimate sacrifice for the family? Overall, do you find this novel to be hopeful or pessimistic? Share your comments.
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