Commonplace-Book Entry: “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner, The Language of Dewey Dell’s Nightmare

 

When I used to sleep with Vardaman I had a nightmare once I thought I was awake but I couldn’t see and couldn’t feel I couldn’t feel the bed under me and I couldn’t think what I was I couldn’t think of my name I couldn’t even think I am a girl I couldn’t even think I nor even think I want to wake up nor remember what was opposite to awake so I could do that I knew that something was passing but I couldn’t even think of time then all of a sudden I knew that something was it was wind blowing over me it was like the wind came and blew me back from where it was I was not blowing the room and Vardaman asleep and all of them back under me again and going on like a piece of cool silk dragging across my naked legs

Faulkner, William. As I Lay Dying. Vintage International, 1990, page 121-122.

I thought that this passage in the text was interesting, due to both its language and structure in which it is written. Here Dewey Dell starts to suddenly think of a nightmare she had while sleeping beside Vardaman after thinking of when Vardaman took a knife and chopped up a fish and then thinking of taking the knife and killing Darl with it. It feels as though this is a random thought or memory at first, but I feel that perhaps she is reminded of this because she is experiencing similar existential thoughts and feelings after the death of her mother. Another thing about this passage is that it is written in italics, as though it is a different kind of thought or a different part of her is interrupting her previous thoughts with this memory, or perhaps, this thought strikes her more deeply or is more important than her other thoughts. It is also written as one long sentence with no punctuation or periods, so while I read it, it felt like an intense rush of thoughts or a memory, which I thought was more like a stream of consciousness than is written for other characters in this text, such as Darl, but it still is written as though Dewey Dell is talking to somebody else. 

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Childhood

“He still tried to think what was the right answer. Was it right to kiss his mother or wrong to kiss his mother? What did that mean, to kiss? You put your face up like that to say goodnight and then his mother put her face down. That was to kiss. His mother put her lips on his cheek; her lips were soft and they wetted his cheeks; and they made a tiny little noise: kiss. Why did people do that with their two faces?”

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Oxford University Press, 2008, page 11.