Sanctuary (Faulkner novel)

Sanctuary
SanctuaryNovel.jpg
First edition cover. An alternate cover features shades of brown instead of blue.[1]
AuthorWilliam Faulkner
Cover artistArthur Hawkins Jr.
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
PublisherJonathan Cape and Harrison Smith
Publication date
1931
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Preceded byAs I Lay Dying 
Followed byLight in August 

Sanctuary is a novel by the American author William Faulkner about the rape and abduction of a well-bred Mississippi college girl, Temple Drake, during the Prohibition era. It is considered one of his more controversial works, given its theme of rape. First published in 1931, it was Faulkner's commercial and critical breakthrough, establishing his literary reputation. It is said Faulkner claimed it was a "potboiler", written purely for profit, but this has been debated by scholars and Faulkner's own friends.

The novel provided the basis for the films The Story of Temple Drake (1933) and Sanctuary (1961).

Faulkner later wrote Requiem for a Nun (1951) as a sequel to Sanctuary.

Plot summary

The novel is set in Faulkner's fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Mississippi and takes place in May/June 1929.

In May 1929, Horace Benbow, a lawyer frustrated with his life and family, suddenly leaves his home in Kinston, Mississippi, and hitchhikes his way back to Jefferson, his hometown in Yoknapatawpha County. There, his widowed sister, Narcissa Sartoris, lives with her son and her late husband's great-aunt, Miss Jenny. On the way to Jefferson, he stops for a drink of water near the "Old Frenchman" homestead, which is occupied by the bootlegger Lee Goodwin. Benbow encounters a sinister man called Popeye, an associate of Goodwin's, who brings him to the decrepit mansion where he meets Goodwin and the strange people who live there with him. Later that night, Benbow catches a ride from Goodwin's place into Jefferson. He argues with his sister and Miss Jenny about leaving his wife, and meets Gowan Stevens, a local bachelor who has recently been courting Narcissa. That night, Benbow moves back into his parents' house, which has been sitting vacant for years.

After meeting Benbow, Stevens leaves to go to a dance in Oxford that same night. Stevens has returned to Jefferson after graduating from college in Virginia, where he "learned to drink like a gentleman." He is from a wealthy family and prides himself on now having adopted the worldview of the Virginia aristocracy. His date that night is Temple Drake, a student at Ole Miss, who has a reputation of being a "fast girl." Temple also comes from a wealthy Mississippi family and is the daughter of a powerful judge. While they're out, Gowan and Temple make plans to meet the next morning to travel with her classmates to Starkville for a baseball game. But, after taking Temple home after the dance, Gowan learns from some locals where he can find moonshine and spends the night drinking heavily. He passes out in his car at the train station where he is supposed to rendezvous with Temple the next morning.

Gowan wakes the next morning to discover that he's missed Temple's train. He speeds to the next town to intercept it, meeting Temple in Taylor, and convincing her to ride with him to Starkville—a violation of the University's rules for young women. On the way, Gowan, still drunk, and an obvious alcoholic, decides to stop at the Goodwin place to find more moonshine. He crashes his car into a tree which Popeye had felled across the drive in case of a police raid. Popeye and Tommy, a good-natured "halfwit" who works for Goodwin, happen to be nearby when the accident happens, and take Temple and Gowan back to the old mansion. Temple is terrified, both by Gowan's behavior and by the strange people and circumstances into which he has brought her. Upon arriving at the Goodwin place, she meets Goodwin's common-law wife, Ruby, who advises her to leave before nightfall. Gowan is given more liquor to drink.

After nightfall, Goodwin returns home and is upset to find Gowan and Temple staying there. All the men continue to drink; Gowan and Van, a member of Goodwin's bootlegging crew, argue and provoke each other. Van makes crude advances toward Temple, rousing in the drunken Gowan a sense that he needs to protect Temple's honor. By this point Temple is deeply distressed. She is apprehensive of the bootleggers, truant from school, and afraid of being discovered for fear of her family's disapproval. She is condescending, which angers Popeye, and tries to hold court in the room where the men are drinking, despite Ruby's advice that she stay away from them. After being harassed, Temple finds a bedroom to hide in. Gowan and Van finally fight and Gowan is knocked out. The other men carry him into the room where Temple is cowering and throw him on the bed. Ruby and Tommy keep the men, including Popeye, from bothering Temple. Finally, the men leave on a whiskey run in the middle of the night.

The next morning, Gowan wakes and silently leaves the house, abandoning Temple. Tommy, who dislikes and fears Goodwin's other men, hides Temple in a corn crib in the barn. But Popeye, who has obviously been devising a scheme, soon discovers them there. He murders Tommy with a gunshot to the back of the head and then proceeds to rape Temple with a corncob. Afterwards, he puts her in his car and drives to Memphis, where he has connections in the criminal underworld.

Meanwhile, Goodwin discovers Tommy's body at his barn. When the police arrive on the scene, they assume Goodwin committed the crime and arrest him. Goodwin knows of Popeye's guilt, but doesn't implicate him out of fear of retaliation. In Jefferson, Goodwin is jailed and Benbow takes up his legal defense, even though he knows that Goodwin cannot pay him. Benbow tries to let Ruby and her sickly infant child stay with him in the house in Jefferson, but Narcissa, acting as half-owner, refuses because of the Goodwin family's reputation. In the end Benbow has no choice but to put Ruby and her son in a room at a local hotel.

Benbow tries unsuccessfully to get Goodwin to tell the court about Popeye. He soon finds out about Temple and her presence at Goodwin's place when Tommy was murdered, heads to Ole Miss to look for her. He discovers that she has left the school. On the train back to Jefferson, he runs into an unctuous state senator named Clarence Snopes, who says that the newspaper is claiming that Temple has been "sent up north" by her father. In reality, Temple is living in a room in a Memphis bawdy house owned by Miss Reba, an asthmatic widowed madam, who thinks highly of Popeye and is happy that he's finally chosen a paramour. Popeye keeps Temple at the brothel for use as a sex slave. However, as he is impotent, he brings along Red, a young gangster, and forces him and Temple to have sex while he watches.

When Benbow returns from Oxford, he learns that the owner of the hotel has kicked out Ruby and her child. After Narcissa again refuses to give them shelter, Benbow finds a place for Ruby to stay outside of town. Meanwhile, Snopes visits Miss Reba's brothel and discovers that Temple is living there. Snopes realizes that this information might be valuable to both Benbow and Temple's father. After Benbow agrees to pay Snopes for the information, Snopes divulges Temple's whereabouts in Memphis. Benbow immediately heads there and convinces Miss Reba to let him talk to Temple. Miss Reba is sympathetic to the plight of Goodwin and his family, although she still admires and respects Popeye. Temple tells Benbow the story of her rape at Popeye's hands. Benbow, shaken, returns to Jefferson. Upon his return home, he reflects on Temple and is reminded of Little Belle, his stepdaughter. He looks at a picture of Little Belle, and then becomes ill while being disturbed by images of her naked, conflated with images from what he has heard from Temple about her night at the old mansion.

At this point, Temple has become thoroughly corrupted by life in the brothel. After bribing Miss Reba's servant to let her leave the house, she runs into Popeye waiting outside in his car. He takes Temple to a roadhouse called The Grotto, intending to finally settle whether she permanently stays with Popeye or Red. At the club, Temple drinks heavily and tries to have furtive sex with Red in a back room, but he spurns her advances for the moment. Two of Popeye's friends frog-march her out of the club and drive her back to Miss Reba. Popeye kills Red, which turns Miss Reba against him. She tells some of her friends what has happened, hoping he will be captured and executed for the murder.

Narcissa visits the District Attorney and reveals she wants Benbow to lose the case as soon as possible, so that he will cease his involvement with the Goodwins. After writing to his wife to ask for a divorce, Benbow tries to get back in touch with Temple via Miss Reba, who tells him that both she and Popeye are gone. At around this time, Goodwin's trial begins in Jefferson. On the second day of the trial, Temple makes a surprise appearance and takes the stand, giving false testimony that it was Goodwin, not Popeye, who had raped and brutalized her. The District Attorney also presents the stained corncob used in Temple's rape as evidence.

The jury finds Goodwin guilty after only eight minutes of deliberation. Benbow, devastated, is taken back to Narcissa's house. After wandering out of the house that evening, he finds that Goodwin has been lynched by the townsfolk with his body set ablaze. Benbow is recognized in the crowd, which speaks of lynching him, too. The next day, a defeated Benbow returns home to his wife. Ironically, on his way to Pensacola, Florida to visit his mother, Popeye is arrested and hanged for a crime he never committed. Temple and her father make a final appearance in the Jardin du Luxembourg, having found sanctuary in Paris.