As I Lay Dying

Shifting Sanity in As I Lay Dying

One of William Faulkner's most celebrated qualities is his inventiveness. As I Lay Dying has fifteen unique narrators, one of them a dead woman, and the novel avoids traditional ideas of linear and chronological structure. Faulkner's style demands that his readers are aware of his multi-faceted process of seeing a story: if he tells the events in four or five different ways, it is because he knows the reader can imagine twenty. The evolution of Faulkner's stories grows past the creation process and into the fabric of the novels themselves. In As I Lay Dying, each character's interpretation of the events represents a different facet of grief, sorrow, confusion, and countless other emotions. As each individual character shifts from actor to narrator, his or her description of an event becomes just as important as the action. Several examples described here serve to illustrate this characteristic of the novel.

First, in the eighteenth section Cash lists thirteen reasons why he constructed the coffin on the bevel. While some of his reasons are justifications of why the bevel is better, other lines seem to have very little significance. They are all important, however. The beginning lines are mostly related to...

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