Well, this is it. The last 77 pages of Sanctuary. It went by fast. I love this book.
Considering this is what Faulkner considered a “pulp” novel, one might think that there would be some kind of big confrontation or showdown between our lovable loser hero Horace and our villain Popeye, but there’s not. Perhaps because really, the themes of the book go well beyond these two characters to the never ending battle between good an evil. Our characters may not have a showdown, but our themes do.
The section starts with Miss Reba talking to two of her friends after attending Red’s funeral. Miss Reba is no longer close to being Popeye’s biggest fan. He’s killed Red, and that the kind of thing she can’t forgive. She’s pissed, she’s drunk, so she tells her lady friends (and, by way of them, the reader), all about the horrible things that happened up in that room where Popeye kept Temple. She tells the women that, several times, Popeye brought Red up to the room, and that Red and Temple would have sex while Popeye watched. She also reveals that Popeye had been paying Minnie not to let Temple out of the house.
Now that Popeye’s killed Red, he takes Temple and hits the road, and nobody knows where they are, which is pretty unfortunate for Horace, considering he was planning on her being the star witness. Nevertheless, Ruby testifies about what happened the night of Tommy’s murder, despite Goodwin asking her not to. Horace is confident that Ruby’s testimony has swayed the jury. He’s sure that Goodwin will walk.
Goodwin isn’t so excited about the prospect of his freedom, though. The night after Ruby’s testimony, Horace finds Ruby and the baby with Goodwin in his jail cell, the three of them pretty much just waiting for Popeye to show up and kill him.
This is a really nice scene. We get to see some genuine moments of affection and even love between Ruby and Goodwin. First of all, Ruby’s refusal to leave his side is touching, as is Goodwin’s insistence that she leave, and that she not walk too close to him the next day on the way to the courthouse. He’s terrified that she and the child will be hurt when Popeye comes from him. There’s a really sweet moment of Ruby calming Goodwin down, and Horace watches the unconventional family, and is not remotely reminded of his wife or step-daughter. Perhaps because, despite of the danger that lurks in the trial and in Popeye, these people actually love each other.
When Goodwin falls asleep, Ruby tells Horace about her relationship with Goodwin. It’s complicated, it’s not all roses and hearts, but it’s something substantial and real. She’s made huge sacrifices for him, even when all it earned her was a beating from the man she loves. But she’s devoted to him completely, and even though he’s not always the nicest guy to her, in these past few scenes we can tell that he loves her and is devoted to her, too.
On the next day, Horace finds that Temple has come to testify. And this is where is all falls apart for him. Temple gets on the witness stand and lies for Popeye (likely in exchange for him releasing her to her father). The prosecution has also entered into evidence a blood soaked corn cob, with which Popeye raped her, but she testifies that it was Goodwin who used it. Temple is broken and zombie like. She’s neither the spirited yet frantic girl who went with Gowan to the Goodwin house, nor is she the damaged yet angry girl who was being kept at Miss Reba’s. Through all of them, Temple is the one who has been hurt the worst, physically and mentally, and it shows.
The jury is only out for eight minutes before finding Goodwin guilty. Unfortunately, he never makes it to his hanging. The townsfolk take him from the prison and burn him alive, leaving Ruby, perhaps the only character in the book who doesn’t deserve a single bad thing that happens to her, completely alone with her child.
It would seem that evil wins, but in Faulkner’s extremely twisted view of justice, Popeye is arrested and hanged for a crime he didn’t commit. And he can be absolutely sure he didn’t commit it, because on the night of this alleged murder in some small town where he’s never been, he was actually in Memphis killing Red.
In this brief section, we actually learn a whole lot about Popeye. Several pages are devoted to telling us his history, and I’m not really sure why Faulkner felt the need to include this. I don’t know if he wants us to feel sorry for Popeye, or if he just wants us to understand this character, or if it’s something else I’m missing entirely. But we learn his sad story. His father abandoned his mother before he was even born, and he also left his wife with a case of (likely) syphilis. Popeye was born with a variety of physical ailments (including an ailment that would cause him to, as his doctor said, “never be a man”), and didn’t learn to walk or speak until he was four. He was raised by his mother, who was pretty off, and his grandmother, who was totally batshit, and who burned the house down, killing herself, when he was still very young. As Popeye grew up, his behavior became pretty horrific, killing and mutilating animals and things like that. He was sent to a home for bad children, which couldn’t have helped matters.
So we learn all this, and I’m not entirely sure why. But, anyway, Popeye gets his own punishment, although it’s for a crime he didn’t commit. He doesn’t fight too hard (or, really, at all) against the charges, and the trial lasts only a day. The jury is out for eight minutes (the same amount of time the jury was out for Goodwin’s trial). He seems to just accept it and doesn’t even attempt to appeal. While I wouldn’t say he feels guilty, perhaps he’s simply accepted the fact that he’s done so many horrible things in his life, and it’s finally caught up with him.
And poor Horace. Dejected and heartbroken, he returns to his wife, who seems pretty nonplussed by the fact that her husband, who left without saying goodbye, who’s been gone for quite awhile, is home. She seems to have the same coldness as the bitch Narcissa. When he walks back into the house, his first thoughts aren’t of his wife, but of Little Belle, who is, presumably, away at school. The entire case has reminded him of her. Temple, being the same age as Belle, reminds Horace of his fatherly feelings for his step-daughter, but the things that happened to Temple, from the rape to the sexual situations she was put in in Memphis, reminds him of his sexual feelings for Little Belle, considering the thing that set him off and brought about his exodus was the fact that Little Belle was painting her face to impress boys, and that she had a new boyfriend.
His wife tells him not to call her, that there’s a dance of some sort that she’s probably out. Horace calls Little Belle anyway and she does pick up. It’s an interesting conversation. As one point her boyfriend takes the phone and tries to joke (perhaps a bit meanly). Belle isn’t interested in talking, and there’s a lot of them interrupting each other. It does, for the most part, read like a conversation between father and daughter, but when her friend takes the phone, she grabs it back, saying that it’s Horace and that she “lives with him”. She doesn’t say “he’s my step father” or “my mother’s husband”. Simply “I live with him”.
Belle hangs up before Horace can even tell her what he wanted to. She hangs up as he’s saying, “Just wanted to tell you…” Then his wife, both oblivious and cold, tells him to lock the back door. Poor Horace has returned to a life in which he’s not happy, and everything is just back to the way it was.
And that’s it! That’s the detailed look at Sanctuary. Since it’s Sunday, which means Lazyday, I think I’ll be able to get my general essay for this done, but my critical essay will definitely take a little longer, especially since I have to pick my topic.
And tomorrow I start n on The Unvanquished!