As I Lay Dying tells the story of a poverty-stricken family experiencing disaster after disaster in Mississippi in the 1920s. Every incident is made worse by the fact that they have no money. Many of the characters have funds set aside for some special purpose: sometimes a luxury, sometimes a necessity. But in every case these funds are sacrificed to keep the family going. The youngest member of the family, a small boy, realizes what it means to be poor when looking at toys in the store window in town and understanding that rural boys like himself aren’t allowed to have such things.
All of the Bundrens’ problems can be traced back to their poverty.