As I Lay Dying is divided into 59 soliloquies, or interior monologues--the characters\' thoughts expressed as if they were spoken. They are delivered by 15 different people.
The basic plot and the controlling image of the novel is that of a journey--in this case, the journey from the Bundrens\' home to the cemetery plot in Jefferson. As some readers have pointed out, the story echoes many of the well-known journeys in history and myth. The story of Odysseus wandering for years before he reaches home is suggested by the novel\'s title, a quote from Homer\'s Odyssey. Jason\'s quest for the Golden Fleece is another epic voyage called to some reader\'s minds. Also, in 1290, England\'s Edward I made a famous funeral journey from Nottinghamshire to London with his dead queen, Eleanor of Castile.
Faulkner\'s story of a poor family\'s funeral journey wasn\'t intended to compete with those grand tales. Yet they form the backdrop against which Faulkner plays out his story.
For the most part, the story is told chronologically. It begins just before Addie\'s death and proceeds, after a three-day delay, with the tortuous journey to Jefferson. Later, flashbacks fill in some of the pieces that are missing from the puzzle of the Bundrens\' lives.
The novel\'s form is an expression of its content. The characters work together and live together--if not in the same house, at least in the same community. Yet their isolation from one another is almost total, and it is exemplified by the 59 monologues. For the most part, the fifteen soliloquists are unable to make meaningful contact with one another. They cannot penetrate each other\'s \"aloneness.\"