In his book, As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner pioneers new and interesting literary forms. His most obvious deviation from traditional novel writing was the new style of narration in which he used all the main characters as the narrator at one point or another. This allowed the reader to gain insight into the characters thoughts, and also to prove very interesting and entertaining. Faulkner also ignores all boundaries that sane people have placed upon the English language to keep it readable.
Faulkner forges his own set of rules for syntax that allow for a very choppy yet elegant stream of consciousness in the characters narration. Lastly, Faulkner makes incredible leaps away from established textual formatting to again make his own way of doing things. He makes chapters of only one sentence, he makes lists of thoughts that were numbered; in other words he flexed the usual methods to fit his ideas of stream of consciousness and character development.
Faulkner is quite revolutionary in all of his methods, especially for the time period in which he wrote it. Narration in As I Lay Dying is bewildering at best. And at worst it is a ragged collection of thoughts and paraphrased verbatim by sporadically chosen characters in the wrong order. But no one is trying to claim that this book is normal. The most notable attribute of Faulkners narration is the changing narrator idea. Faulkner starts out telling the story from Darls point of view, but after a short chapter changed to Cora, who we have not yet been introduced to.
The narrator keeps on changing whilst the reader attempts to both sort the characters according to the relationships that bind them and to try to understand the peculiarisms of each character. Faulkner does a great job of varying the attitudes and styles of the characters as they narrate in turn, but this creates a confusing atmosphere, especially in the first few chapters. For instance, the first section is narrated by Darl who talks about Jewel, Tull, and Cash like we are supposed to know who they are. The next section is by Cora who mentions Addie, Kate, and Mrs.
Lawington, and talking about issues with each one of them, and we still dont know who Darl is. As you could imagine, this creates quite a bit of confusion in the first part of the book, until the reader can sort through the characters, but by that time, a quarter of the book is gone and needs to be reread. An upside of this method, however, is that it allows the author the full use of the minds of his characters, and he can create a more clear picture of their thoughts. Another peculiarity of the narration of this book was the idea of stream of consciousness.
Faulkner uses his words to try to express what the characters are thinking at that moment. The thoughts tend to ramble a little, with one idea leading onto another, and many of them not making sense unless some assumptions are made of past events. This form of narration is made possibly by the use of fragment sentences, run-ons, and many other strange twists of literature. One example of this stream of consciousness is illustrated by when young Vardaman attempts to deal with his mothers grief and is running off words a mile a minute. Dewey Dell said we will get some bananas.
The train behind the glass, red on the track. When it runs the track shines on and off. Pa said flour and sugar and coffee costs so much. Because I am a country boy because boys in town. Bicycles. Why do flour and sugar and coffee cost so much when he is a country boy? Wouldnt you ruther have some bananas instead? Bananas are gone, eaten. Gone. When it runs on the track shines again. Why aint I a town boy, pa? I said. God made me. I did not said to God to made me in the country. If He can make the train, why cant He make them all in the town because flour and sugar and coffee.
Wouldnt you ruther have bananas? As you can see, Vardaman is very confused; he is young which is shown by his sporadic nature, and he is dealing with a lot of grief and confusion while entertaining the prospect of going to town. Stream of consciousness is a very effective way of thought expression and character development, and is primarily due to the use (or misuse) of syntax and the contortion of textual formatting. Some would say that Faulkner does not use syntax in his book. But syntax is present, however deviated from most examples of the English language.
For example, Vardaman rarely uses punctuation and often changes ideas mid-sentence. Darls sentences are clear, yet flowery and anything but concise. Jewel seems to be angry at everything and his sentences show it being gruff and hurried, lacking punctuation and clarity. For example, he says, If it had just been me when Cash fell off of that church and if it had just been me when pa laid sick with that load of wood fell on him, it would not be happening with every bastard in the county coming in to stare at her because if there is a God what the hell is He for.
It would just be me and her on a high hill and me rolling the rocks down the hill at their faces, picking them up and throwing them down the hill faces and teeth and all by God until she was quiet and not that goddamn adze going One lick less. One lick less and we could be quiet. The syntax of this book helps develop the characters by writing what they would likely write in a journal. It also forces the reader to think about the material