Lesson 1: Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying": Images of Faulkner and the South

William Faulkner's self-proclaimed masterpiece, As I Lay Dying, originally published in 1930, is a fascinating exploration of the many voices found in a Southern family and community. The following lesson examines the novel's use of multiple voices in its narrative. Faulkner:

often told his stories using multiple narratives, each with their own interests and biases, who allow us to piece together the 'true' circumstances of the story, not as clues in a mystery, but as different melodies in a piece of music that form a crescendo. The conclusion presents a key to understanding the broad panorama surrounding the central event in a way that traditional linear narratives simply are unable to accomplish."
—Evan Goodwin

The novel's title—As I Lay Dying—invokes a first-person speaker, presumably the voice of the dead mother, Addie Bundren. Yet she only speaks once in the novel, and she is dead, not dying, throughout most of the novel (aside from the beginning chapters). How does Faulkner's form for the novel—a series of competing voices and perspectives presented as a multiple-voice narrative—work for or against the novel's title?

Guiding Questions

Who is William Faulkner?

What makes "the South" an interesting setting?

What does it mean to have multiple voices or perspectives instead of just one?

Learning Objectives

After completing the activity in this lesson, students will be able to: Learn Faulkner's place in American literary history

Explore Faulkner's "South" in the context of the historical South

Understand and explore the use of multiple voices in narration