Part Three: Pages 161-250 Notes from As I Lay Dying

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As I Lay Dying Part Three: Pages 161-250


Although she has died, Addie recalls her youth and courtship with Anse. As a young schoolteacher, she hated her job and her students, secretly craving to whip them. Her father always spoke negatively about life and marriage, and children thereupon seemed to be a hassle. When Cash was born, she learned that living was terrible and that words are no good. The word "love" means nothing more than another word, such as the word "Anse." When Darl is born, she is even more depressed and believes words and Anse to be playing a trick on her. She makes him promise that he will take her to Jefferson when she dies to be buried with her family.

Topic Tracking: Family Devotion 9

Cora Tull tells her that words are important and she must be forgiven for her sins. However, Addie believes her clothes and her daily life to be absolution from sin by recalling her affair with the man who gave her Jewel - Whitfield, the local priest.

"While I waited for him in the woods, waiting for him before he saw me, I would think of him as dressed in sin. I would think of him as thinking of me as dressed also in sin, he the more beautiful since the garment which he had exchanged for sin was sanctified. I would think of the sin as garments which we would remove in order to shape and coerce the terrible blood to the forlorn echo o the dead word high in the air. Then I would lay with Anse again - I did not lie to him: I just refused, just as I refused my breast to Cash and Darl after their time was up - hearing the dark land talking the voiceless speech." Addie, p. 166-7

She never hides her affair and later gives Anse Dewey Dell as a negation of Jewel. Vardaman comes along to replace Anse of a robbed child. Addie consistently remembers her father telling her that the reason for living is to get ready for staying dead. Addie lives by these words, causing the devout Cora to pray for her at every moment possible.

Topic Tracking: Religion 9


Whitfield is stunned to learn of Addie's illness and believes he must beg forgiveness from the man whom he betrayed by sleeping with Addie - Anse. He believes he has wrestled with Satan and feels remorse for his affair. When he learns of Tull's bridge falling down, he is thrilled because he may have the chance to speak with Anse in time for salvation.

By the time Whitfield reaches Tull's house, one of Tull's daughters tells him that Addie has already died. Whitfield is sad and tells the Lord that he has sinned, begging forgiveness from the Almighty, since he now cannot confess to Anse. He blesses Tull's house.

Topic Tracking: Religion 10


The Bundren family arrives at Armstid's house to sleep for the evening. Cash lies over the coffin, for he is sick to his stomach and has been vomiting profusely. Dewey Dell and Mrs. Armstid take care of him while Armstid offers his home and food to the Bundrens. Anse tells him they will sleep in the barn while Darl observes Jewel tending to his horse in the barn, separate from the rest of the family.


Armstid wants to offer his help and his mules to Anse, for he believes him to be a good Christian man. He wants to tell Anse about a better way to get to Jefferson, but Anse will not hear of it. Jewel goes into town to fetch Peabody to help Cash with his stomach and broken leg (from the previous summer), but returns alone. The next day, Jewel lends Anse his horse to go to town to see Snopes to get a team. It is the first time Jewel has ever lent his horse to another soul.

The smell from Addie's corpse spreads throughout the barn and people from all over the country wonder what Armstid may be keeping in it. Vardaman is captivated by the buzzards flying around the coffin. When people realize what is in the wagon in the barn, Lula, Armstid's wife is outraged. Armstid defends Anse and remembers that it takes a long time to make a trade with Snopes the local trader, so he could be gone for a while longer. Jewel and Darl begin to argue over taking the wagon out of the barn. Dinner is ready as Armstid looks at his mules, thinking that he will pass them on to Anse for his journey.

Anse eventually comes riding back to Armstid's with a look of success painted over his face. He got a team successfully; however, he traded Jewel's horse in order to do so. Jewel becomes livid and is in disbelief of Anse's heartless actions. Anse truly wants to get to Jefferson so he can buy teeth. "I give that money. I thought that if I could do without eating, my sons could do without riding. God knows I did" Armstid, p. 182. Seeing such family strife and tragedy, Armstid again offers his team. The Bundrens, however, leave that the house, with Cash lain out across the coffin, despite Armstid's offer to keep him with them until he is well.

Topic Tracking: Poverty 8

The next morning, one of Snopes' workers comes searching for Anse. Jewel has taken off with the horse during the night and might be somewhere in Texas by now.


Vardaman observes the little black circles - buzzards - not moving in the sky. The Bundrens worry about Cash, thinking they should have left him at Armstid's. Cash says he is fine. They will get him medicine at Mottson, the next town, and also try to sell the cakes that Dewey Dell has been holding. Vardaman thinks that the smell coming from the coffin cannot be his mother, because his mother is a fish.


The Bundrens stop in the small town of Mottson where Dewey Dell walks into a drug store owned by the elderly Moseley. He is a respectable pharmacist who is fascinated by Dewey Dell's dark eyes and penetrating gaze. When he finally approaches her, she tells him that she needs something to make 'it' stop. He understands that she is pregnant and believes she must speak with her mother over such a matter (who Dewey Dell says is in the wagon) and must take the ten dollars that Lafe gave her to get a marriage license. He will not give her anything she needs for an abortion, despite Lafe's supposed claim that she can buy what she needs for ten dollars in any drugstore for her problem. Dewey Dell leaves the store in desperation and defeat.

Moseley soon learns from his friend Albert about the Bundrens' story.

"It had been dead eight days, Albert said. They came from some place in Yoknapatawpha County, trying to get to Jefferson with it. It must have been like a piece of rotten cheese coming into an anti-hill, in that ramshackle wagon that Albert said folks were scared would fall all to pieces before they could get it out of town, with that home-made box and another fellow with a broken leg lying on a quilt on top of it, and the father and a little boy sitting on the seat and the marshal trying to make them get out of town." Moseley, p. 193

Topic Tracking: Poverty 9

The Bundrens go to Grummet's hardware store to get cement to fix Cash's leg. The townsfolk tell Anse to get him to a doctor immediately so he doesn't lose his leg, but the family persists onward. They keep traveling toward Jefferson, despite the rotting corpse, absence of Jewel, and illness and injury of Cash.


Since Cash's leg is broken, the family uses the cement they buy in Mottson to set it, in fear that he might bleed to death from his injury. They loosen the wooden splints and pour wet cement over his leg. Cash has no complaints, thinking this the best way to heal his wounded body. They turn around to see Jewel coming back to the wagon, silent and stoic, speaking to them only through his pale eyes. As the family approaches a hill, they realize that they must get out of the wagon and walk.


Vardaman thinks about his brothers and contemplates their differences in his young, naïve mind. "Jewel came back. He was walking. Jewel hasn't got a horse anymore. Jewel is my brother. Cash is my brother. Cash has a broken leg. We fixed Cash's leg so it doesn't hurt. Cash is my brother. Jewel is my brother too, but he hasn't got a broken leg" Vardaman, p. 200. That night while sleeping in the next barn, Vardaman plans to see where the buzzards go at night.


The family stays at the Gillespie barn that evening and set the coffin up against an apple tree. Darl persistently questions Jewel on the identity of his father. Angrily, Jewel curses him and refuses to answer. Darl tells him that he knows his mother is a horse, but he doesn't know who his father is. Dewey Dell and Darl pour water over Cash's leg because it starts to get hot and boiled.


Vardaman asks Darl a series of questions about Addie, for they believe they can hear her speak and move inside the coffin. Darl says that their mother wants God to hide her away from the sight of men, and is therefore within the coffin permanently. Cash's leg becomes more and more infected. Every time they throw water on it, he is thankful and at ease.

While watching the buzzards at night, Vardaman sees the Gillespie boy, Darl, Anse, and Jewel carrying the coffin on their shoulders into the barn in the middle of the night. He then witnesses Darl set fire to the barn after everyone has gone inside. He tells only Dewey Dell who instructs him not to say anything to anyone about what he has just seen.


Darl sees Jewel watching him from afar with his penetrating gaze. The barn suddenly erupts in flames burning brightly, causing the Bundren and Gillespie families to come outside and watch the red spectacle. Jewel hears the horses scream and runs inside to save them. Jewel looks for the cow and then runs back into the burning barn for his mother's coffin. Gillespie tries to prevent Jewel from returning to the fire; however, Jewel punches him in order to get through the fraternal resistance keeping him from his mother's body. Dewey Dell screams for her brother's life. As the edifice falls to ashes, Jewel holds the enormous wooden box in his arms until they are safely outside the flames.

Topic Tracking: Family Devotion 10


Gillespie does not understand how the family placed cement around Cash's leg, especially without even greasing it first. Cash's foot is black and infected and they take a hammer to break off the cement. When they finally do so, it bleeds. Jewel's back is also black from the burns in the fire and Dewey Dell tends to it with butter and soot. Darl cries under the apple tree with Addie's body. Vardaman tells him not to cry, for Jewel rescued her from the fire. Vardaman looks at the red barn again and thinks again of what he looks for at night: "When I went to find where they stay at night, I saw something that Dewey Dell says I mustn't never tell nobody" Vardaman, p. 215.


The family sees increasing signs of proximity to Jefferson on the road. Anse comments on life in the country and the differences of city life. "Life was created in the valleys. It blew up into the hills on the old terrors, the old lusts, the old despairs. That's why you must walk up the hills so you can ride down" Darl, p. 217. Dewey Dell tells Anse she needs to stop to go to the bathroom. They stop on the side of the road and Dewey Dell takes her cakes with her in the bushes. When she returns, she is wearing her Sunday clothes.

Anse wonders why he didn't call ahead so that the grave might already be dug by the time they get there. Darl doesn't understand why he didn't take that advice from both Armstid and Gillespie, but Jewel doesn't think it's that hard to dig a hole in the ground. Anse yells at them for disrespecting their mother.

As they approach the town of Jefferson, they see Negroes and whites around them, in shock of their wagon and curious as to its malodorous contents. Jewel erupts at one of the white men, causing him to start a fight and pull a knife on him. Darl calms them down and convinces Jewel to take back his derogatory comment about townsfolk while he convinces the man to put away his knife. The family continues on in the wagon towards their destination.


Cash and Anse realize that it is Darl who set fire to the Gillespie barn in order to cause harm to Jewel and the phantom of his horse and incinerate their mother. They understand that he will stand trial, but Anse believes he should have the pleasure of seeing his mother buried before more chaos ensues. According to Anse, there is no end to bad luck as soon as it starts. Cash thinks about his father's words and the family's current predicament:

"Sometimes I aint so sho who's got ere a right to say when a man is crazy and when he aint. Sometimes I think it aint none of us pure crazy and aint none of us pure sane until the balance of us talks him that-a-way. It's like it aint so much what a fellow does, but it's the way the majority of folks is looking at him when he does it." Cash, p. 223

Cash thinks Jewel is too hard on Darl, but Darl still has no excuse for destroying another man's property and livelihood. Anse and Darl discuss Cash and whether or not they should take him to the doctor before they bury Addie, leave him there while they do it, or wait until after they bury her. Addie has waited nine days already, so she can wait a few more. Anse leaves them alone while he goes to get spades to dig. While inside, he flirts with a woman in the back of the house and listens to the gramophone playing in the background. When he returns, he takes Dewey Dell into privacy, and later comes out to throw Darl on the ground to commit him to a mental institution. Since Gillespie plans to sue the family for the fire, Anse decides to commit Darl instead of sending him to jail. The brothers begin to fight when they discover Darl's clandestine activity at night in the barn. Cash ponders sanity as he thinks of Darl's destruction of the barn.


Peabody is in shock and horror at Anse's activities of the past nine days. He cannot believe that they have been riding on a wagon with no springs, help, and a broken foot. He thinks Anse is a horror of a human being to throw Darl down in the public street and handcuff him and to pour concrete on Cash's leg, forever destroying it. He thinks he should be buried in the hole, instead of Addie, so that the rest of the family could be safe.

Topic Tracking: Poverty 10


Young MacGowan works in a pharmacy in town when Dewey Dell walks in looking for a doctor to perform her abortion. MacGowan knows that he is not a doctor and that there is no doctor working at the store. He pretends to be one because Dewey Dell is attractive and young. "She looked pretty good. One of them black eyed ones that look like she'd as soon put a knife in you as not if you two-timed her. She looked pretty good" MacGowan, p. 232. Dewey Dell tells him that she has female problems without explicitly stating her problem. MacGowan jokes with his coworker about the low class country folk and their unwanted pregnancies and decides to take her on. He understands what she wants and convinces her, through lies and chicanery, that he is in fact a doctor. She questions his honesty due to his youth, and he tells her that people stopped getting sick in Jefferson when all the doctors were old and unattractive. Now, people are sick all the time so that they can come and see the young medicine men. MacGowan gives her turpentine to drink and tells her to come back at ten o'clock that evening to finish the treatment. When the store is empty, she returns wanting her abortion, leaving Vardaman waiting directly outside. He gives her a box of capsules and tells her to go downstairs to the basement.


Vardaman observes the surroundings of the city and notes that Darl is going to Jackson because he has gone crazy. He sees the lights, the trees, the courthouse, and knows that everyone in town has gone home by now, except for him and Dewey Dell. He believes Darl went crazy because of their wagon, not because of anything else along the way. Dewey Dell worries that 'it' won't work. Vardaman repeats that Darl is his brother, is on a train to Jackson, and that he, Vardaman, is not on a train to Jackson.


Darl is on the train to Jackson, laughing hysterically at everything in his path. Two men on the train try to guess at the source of his laughter and suppose it is either from a spy-glass with the impression of a woman on one side and a pig with two backs and no face on the other, or the image of his family eating bananas in the wagon. Darl's only repeated response throughout the entire train ride is "Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes" Darl, p. 244.

Dewey Dell

Anse questions Dewey Dell on the source of her ten dollars. She cannot tell him that it is from Lafe for an abortion, so he believes her to be an ungrateful daughter. Dewey Dell accuses Anse of stealing over the grave of her mother when he plans to take the money from her. Anse blesses and resents Addie for dying, and then takes Dewey Dell's money and leaves.

Topic Tracking: Poverty 11


The Bundren family stops to borrow the shovels used from burying Addie and Cash ponders the trip they just completed. Cash must have his leg fixed by Peabody. Dewey Dell and Vardaman wait for Anse in the wagon, eating bananas in the back. Looking svelte and clean-cut, Anse comes back from town with a new look. Cash wishes that Darl could be with the family, but knows that it is better for him that he is not. He believes this world is not meant for him.

Anse leaves for the evening to return the spades he borrowed from the woman in the house. Upon his return, Anse has a gramophone in his possession to listen to music on those long winter nights, a new set of teeth, and a new wife. "'It's Cash and Jewel and Vardaman and Dewey Dell,' pa says, kind of hangdog and proud too, with his teeth and all, even if he wouldn't look at us. 'Meet Mrs Bundren,' he says" Cash, p. 250.

Topic Tracking: Poverty 12
Topic Tracking: Family Devotion 11

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