As I Lay Dying


William Faulkner

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As I Lay Dying: 34. Darl Summary & Analysis

Down the river from where Tull, Anse, Dewey Dell and Vardaman crossed, Darl and Cash proceed with the wagon to the ford. Jewel remains on his horse, following Darl and Cash at the wagon's rear wheel. The brothers spot the rest of the Bundren clan on the other side of the river, and begin arguing about how they will successfully cross the river with the wagon. After bickering, the brothers decide that Jewel should cross the river first on his horse, offering Darl and Cash a rope on the other side. Then, Darl should stay in the wagon as Cash helps it cross from the outside.
Unlike Tull's narration in the previous section, the bickering between Darl, Cash and Jewel returns to the present tense, increasing the sense of immediacy and urgency through language. Their disagreement also provides a granular example of how the Bundrens' familial obligation is tied up with rivalries among siblings and competing self-interests, and is not born out of genuine duty to Addie Bundren.
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When Jewel, Cash and Darl attempt to execute their plan, a large log rushes toward them with the river's current. Desperate, Darl dismounts the wagon and Cash focuses on the safety of the coffin and his box of tools. The log ends up crashing into the wagon, but Cash holds onto the coffin. Jewel shouts at his horse, as the other family members rush along the riverbank. Because of the strong surge of water from the river's rapid current, Anse's mules have been drowned.
Darl's description of the river episode is imbued with religious significance. He refers to the scene as "the wasted world," which likens the Bundrens' journey to Biblical referents, particularly the image of hell. The Bundrens' quick response to the catastrophe seems to heighten their heroism, though in doing so, also calls into question whether the journey itself is heroic to begin with.
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