Though neither film nor film viewing is ever named in As I Lay Dying, both the apparatus of cinema and what we might term its sociohistorical effects are evoked powerfully by and in the novel. These include the passing before the reader’s “gaze” of the discrete, separate “frames” of the various characters’ monologues, as well as, in particular section, a fascination with watching machinery that resembled the interest of early film biewers in the cinematic apparatus (see Doane 108).

If Vardaman and his family are not explicitly depicted as film viewers, they nevertheless show signs of what has been theorized as a modern and cinematic optics or perception. The importance of the novel’s references to consumer culture, though, or of its potential filmic overtones is not simply a historical and perceptual congruence. Rather, they allow us to see the Bundren’s transformation into, not only a different family, but arguable a new identity of both race and class.

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Copyright © 2011 University Press of Mississippi. This chapter first appeared in Faulkner and Whiteness.

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