Study Guide

As I Lay Dying Section Fifty-Three, narrated by Cash

By William Faulkner

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Section Fifty-Three, narrated by Cash

  • Darl is being sent to a mental institution in Jackson. The Bundrens are worried that if they don’t, Gillespie will sue him for burning down his barn.
  • Jewel wants to tie Darl up so he can’t set fire to anything else, but Cash says they should wait until Addie is buried to do so.
  • Anse laments his own rotten luck. Again.
  • Cash philosophizes that there is no such thing as "crazy" or "sane," and that it all depends on who’s looking at you when you act and what they think. (This is important stuff, Shmooper.)
  • He understands Jewel’s anger, but he thinks that Darl was trying to burn up the value of Jewel's horse in the barn, to make up for the fact that it was traded away.
  • He also thinks it was God’s plan to have Addie’s body taken in an easy, natural way. He wonders if Jewel worked against God’s plan when he fought so hard to pull the coffin from the river.
  • Still, nothing justifies Darl’s burning down Gillespie’s barn. He muses that this must be how "crazy" is defined – by acting in a way that other men can’t see eye to eye with.
  • As the family makes their way into town, Darl proposes that they take Cash to the doctor before burying Addie. But Cash says he can wait until after.
  • Pa realizes they don’t have a spade to dig the hole with. Jewel wants to spend the money to buy one, but Pa says that he will borrow it from a citizen in town.
  • The boys wait in front of a house while Pa goes in to get a spade. Cash refers to it as "Mrs. Bundren’s house," which will make sense by the end of the novel. From inside the house he can hear music playing from a graphophone –just like the one he would have bought with the money that Anse took to buy the replacement team of mules.
  • Anse comes back from the house with two spades. They drive away from the house, but he looks back it. In the window Cash can see a woman’s face.
  • After Addie is buried, some men come to take Darl away to the institution. A fight breaks out when he resists apprehension. Jewel is angry, yelling for them to kill Darl. Darl looks up at Cash and says, "I thought you would have told me." Then he begins laughing maniacally.
  • Cash tells his brother that it will be better for him to go. Darl just keeps laughing.
  • Cash feels conflicted, but he maintains his earlier conviction that nothing justifies burning down a barn, a man’s livelihood.
  • But then he again doubts himself, reiterating that no man has a right to deem an action sane or crazy.

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