Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sanctuary: Pages 250-317

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!

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Sanctuary: Pages 200-249

This section is mostly about Temple. After three days, Horace has finally found a place for Ruby and the child to stay. Ruby says that he’d better not come around anymore, and Horace gets indignant, saying that he doesn’t care what the rest of the town thinks, and that he’s tired of women running his life and that it stops now, but they both know that he doesn’t mean any of that. Especially the part about women not running his life anymore.

When he gets home from dropping Ruby off, he get a call from Clarence, who comes over to the house with information on Temple. He’s seen her at a ” ‘ho’house” in Memphis. Horace quickly heads to Memphis to talk to Temple.

He’s welcomed at the house by Miss Reba, but Clarence is not, because he caused trouble, pinched the girls, and then didn’t have the decency to pay any of them for sex. While not long ago Miss Reba was acting like being raped and kidnapped by Popeye was an honor, now she’s worried about Temple’s health and sanity, saying that she’d get Temple out of Memphis if she could, if she could only find her parents or something. She thinks Temple’s just not cut out for the world in which Popeye lives, and she thinks if Temple stays with Popeye for another year she’ll wind up either dead or in a mental institution.

I like Miss Reba as a character because of her moral ambiguity. She’s neither good nor bad. Things work for her on a kind of case by case basis. Mostly, she’s okay with Popeye being a criminal and bringing around girls he’s assaulted. But when that girl is clearly unstable and traumatized, then she does have a kind of problem with it. It’s not what Popeye’s done, but who he’s done it to that bothers her.

Miss Reba talks Temple into telling her story to Horace, but Temple hate the life she’s living so much that she won’t even meet with him in her own room, and she insists on the room being dark. Miss Reba tries to goad the story out of Temple, saying that they can make it so that she doesn’t have to say it was Popeye, and that she could testify and then she and Popeye could go off somewhere together. Horace says that Temple can disguise herself and not give her own name.

Eventually, Temple starts her story, but she’s pretty much lost it, so the confession becomes very theatrical, and she clearly enjoys the audience she has in Horace and Miss Reba. Horace keeps trying to steer her to the morning, when Tommy was killed, but Temple is fixated on the night before. She confesses that, when Ruby and Tommy weren’t in the room, when she was lying there next to a snoring Gowan, that she taunted Popeye into molesting here, and that she feel asleep while he was doing it.

Horace leaves, thinking it might be better for Temple if she was dead. He can’t even stand to stay in Memphis, he heads straight back to Jefferson. When he gets home he fixates on the pictures of Little Belle once again. Horace is clearly having a difficult time at this point separating Little Belle and Temple in his head, and now the horrible things Temple told him have him feeling very mixed up about his sexual feelings toward his step daughter. The mix of feelings drives him to vomit.

The next chapter moves on to Temple, still at Miss Reba’s, becoming a little more assertive. But still 100% batshit crazy. She makes herself feel a little better by trashing some of Popeye’s things, and then putting one of his pistols under the mattress. She bribes Minnie to let her out and goes to use a payphone. We later find out she’s called Red, a local gangster and business associate of Popeye’s. The three have some kind of bizarre sexual arrangement which I’m sure you can imagine one normal man, one impotent man, and one woman having. But the deal has clearly gone bad, because Popeye has said that Temple is not to see Red anymore, and that if she does, he’ll kill him.

But Temple is showing a pretty big streak of independence, however ill-conceived, because she goes back to the house and gets ready for a date. Minnie complains about the way Temple treats Popeye. Minnie thinks Popeye is pretty damn attractive, and reveals to us that he’s spent a lot of money on Temple, buying her some really nice things. She ignores Minnie, drinks a whole bunch of gin that she’s saved up, and sneaks out.

Unfortunately for her, she sneaks out right into the arms of Popeye, who’s pretty much goading her into getting Red killed. He tells her she can turn around and go back into the house, or get into his car, where they’ll go meet up with Red. And, assumingly, where he’ll kill Red.

The go to the dancehall and dance, and Temple gets pretty drunk before Red even shows. At one point, Temple tries to make sexual advances on Popeye, even reaching her hand down his pants, before remembering he’s impotent and apologizing.

At some point, Temple escapes from Popeye and gets a room with Red. She tries to have sex with him, saying she needs him right now without Popeye around, but then she confesses that Popeye is planning to kill him if he catches them together again. Red then stops the hanky panky and pushes Temple out of the room. Eventually, two of Popeye’s men drag her out of the dancehall.

Apparently, Popeye has killed Red, because the section is another bizarrely humorous scene in which many underworld folk are attending Red’s funeral and becoming increasingly upset over his murder.

To Be Continued…

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Sanctuary: Pages 150-200

Temple stays in the room at Miss Reba’s throughout the day and into the night. She stays in bed, imagining that she’s back home, or back at school, getting ready to go out to a dance. Faulkner spends two whole paragraphs describing the thing Temple hears in and around the brothel, the sound of people coming up the stairs and down the hallway, the sound of cars outside, the sounds of Miss Reba’s dogs. Minnie, the maid, comes in with food for Temple, and the dogs follow her in, cowering beneath the bed. Temple learns that the dogs’ names are Mr. Binford and Miss Reba, named after Miss Reba and the late man in her life. They were purchased the day after Mr. Binford’s death, and have since been subjected to a great deal of abuse from the human Miss Reba. Another example of two creatures facing constant danger in a place where they should be safe.

Temple says she’s not hungry, but Minnie leaves the food anyway. After a moment of being nearly physically revolted by the sight of the food, she slowly begins to eat, and soon eats the whole meal. Minnie leaves the dogs with Temple, and for a moment, with Popeye away somewhere, and with Miss Reba off getting drunk, the three are safe together for a brief moment. But none of them are safe for long. Miss Reba soon comes for the dogs, and not long after, Popeye comes for Temple. Again, he stands just looking at her for a long time before approaching her. Temple tries to protest, saying that the doctor said “I can’t now…” But Popeye assaults her yet again.

At the beginning of the next chapter, we’re back to Horace in Jefferson, talking to Ruby about Temple. Horace seems to be downright horrified by what Ruby has told him, and he keeps asking, “But she was alright?” Ruby, perhaps out of guilt, perhaps out of indignation that Temple has become the main point of concern in all of this, won’t say either way, just goes on to say that nobody wanted her there and that maybe the men wouldn’t have taken such notice of her if she hadn’t been acting so erratically.

Ruby has finally called the doctor for her baby, who’s obvious illness has clearly become worse since they left the house. Ruby’s behavior has become more and more nervous the longer she’s been away from the house, in a town where everyone is whispering about her, with her baby suffering from some unspecified illness. Her irrational dislike of Temple aside, Ruby becomes extremely sympathetic in these chapters. She loves her husband, she loves her child, and with the exception of Horace, whose goodness is always hindered by his uptight sister, she’s all alone in the world.

In learning about Temple, Horace also learns about the case’s connection to his sister. The cowardly Gowan, who abandoned Temple, was a suitor of Narcissa’s who, after having his proposal turned down, headed to Oxford where “there was a woman he was reasonably confident he would not appear ridiculous to”, in reference to Temple. Of course, with his constant drunkeness (probably because of Narcissa’s refusal), he appeared EXTREMELY ridiculous to Temple. He’s left a note for Narcissa, explaining that he’s left town, proving that he’s even more of a coward than we previously thought.

Horace spends a good deal of time pretty much obsessing over a picture of Little Belle, his feelings trapped between the parental and the sexual. Perhaps its this line of thought that causes his to run off in search of Temple. He hops on a train to Oxford to find her, his purpose probably halfway between wanting to find her to testify in the case and just to make sure she really is okay, that when Ruby saw her in the car with Popeye that he was just giving her a ride to town.

But, of course, when he gets to Oxford he discovers that she’s not there. At this point we learn that, in this part of the book, two weeks have passed since Temple’s rape and Tommy’s murder. Horace is told that Temple has “run away” from school. He continues through town, on his way back to the train, in a state of despair, both at the thought of what may have actually happened to Temple, and because he truly doesn’t think he can win the case without her. This despair is magnified when he sees Temple’s name written on the wall of the bathroom, with some unsavory things following it.

It’s important to note that Temple would be about the same age as little Belle, so his feelings toward her well being are understandable, despite the fact that he’s never actually met her. It’s thinking of Little Belle that sends him off to look for Temple, and naturally searching for Temple makes him think of Little Belle. Thankfully, since he’s never actually met Temple, any sexual feelings he connects to Little Belle are absent, and he can simply be outraged at the sexual suggustions he reads on the bathroom wall.

On the train back he meets Clarence Snopes, who he knows from about ten year back. Clarence is now a senator, residing in Jackson, Temple Drake’s home town. We get to see some of Horace’s cleverness here, as he extracts information from his old friend. Saying he was up at Oxford visiting friends of his step-daughter (because that’s a totally normal thing for a guy to do, visit his step daughter’s friends) and he heard about a girl named Temple Drake who ran away. Clarence says everyone was worried she’d run off with some boy, but that she turned up at home. Horace asks if she’s running around Jackons now, and Clarence says that the local paper reported that her father sent her up to stay with an Aunt in the north, which understandably rings false to Horace.

In Horace’s day-long absence, the religious community of Jefferson has got their act together and Ruby’s been evicted from the hotel and is staying at the prison for a night. Horace again pleads with Narcissa to allow Ruby to stay at the house (which, really, Narcissa should have no say in, since it’s no longer her home), but as usual, Narcissa is a giant bitchface, and Horace is a wimp, and he’s at a loss as to what to do with Ruby. Narcissa wants him to forget the whole thing and leave town. But, again, Narcissa is a bitch.

Horace has one more encounter with Clarence, who’s heading up to Memphis. The exchange really shows how passionately he feels about Ruby and the case. Clarence brings up that he’s heard about Ruby’s troubles finding a place to live, and Horace becomes genuinely furious about the whole thing.

In the next chapter, we’re introduced to two new characters, one of whom is a Snopes, Clarence’s cousin. It’s kind of a comical interlude that will surely tie in later. The boys have come to Memphis to, it would seem, attend barber school, but all of the hotels are too expensive, so they find themselves at Miss Reba’s, paying for a room, not realizing it’s a brothel, thinking that all the girls are Miss Reba’s family and that they’re all married. Even after they go a few blocks away to another brothel, they still don’t realize that Miss Reba’s is a whorehouse.

At the end of the chapter, Clarence shows and takes the boys to yet another brothel.

To be Continued…..

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Sanctuary: Pages 106-150

This is the section in which Horace Benbow starts to become one of my favorite lovable losers.

The action shifts to the town of Jefferson, where Tommy’s body has been brought and where Goodwin is now in prison awaiting trial for his murder. Horace has agreed to represent Goodwin, as a favor to Ruby, but Goodwin refuses to tell anyone that it was Popeye who shot Tommy, or that Popeye was even there at all. He simply says that he’s innocent and that the prosecution will have to prove he did it. He’s too terrified of what Popeye will do to him to tell the truth.

Horace, during all of this, has opened up the old house in town where he and his sister grew up. Narcissa isn’t pleased about this, nor is she pleased about… well, pretty much anything having to do with Horace. She hates that he married a divorced woman, hates that he left said divorced woman, and now she hates that he’s mixed himself up in such tawdry business by taking Goodwin’s case. And she’s especially not pleased to find that Horace has invited Ruby to stay at the house with him.

Horace puts up a fight in Ruby’s defense, but eventually crumbles under Narcissa’s unceasing bitchiness, and he takes Ruby to a hotel. Horace knows there’s something that Goodwin and Ruby aren’t telling him, outside of the whole Popeye thing, but Ruby won’t say a word.

And here’s where I want to go back to something I completely forgot about in the last section, and that’s the character of Goodwin. Initially, during the scenes in which Temple is staying at the house prior to the rape, it seems at times that Goodwin is just as much a participant in her torment as Popeye and Van are. But really, that’s because we see everything through other people’s eyes (Tommy, Ruby, and Temple herself) and never through Goodwin’s. Tommy is incredibly protective of Temple, and assumes that all the men are interested in doing something terrible to Temple. When Goodwin comes out of Temple and Gowan’s room with the raincoat Temple was wearing, Tommy assumes he has the coat because he’s done something to her. But we later find out that he merely asked her to take it off because he wanted it back. When we see it through Ruby’s eyes, she’s jealous of this beautiful young thing that’s driven all the other men up the wall. She’s already insecure enough, and this brings her to assume that Goodwin feels the same way as the others. And, sure, Goodwin isn’t the most upstanding guy, considering he knocks Ruby around when she accuses him of wanting Temple, but he never actually does anything to Temple.

In fact, looking back on the section, he was probably protecting her more than anything. He came to blows with Van in her defense, and told Popeye to back off more than once, and while Ruby thinks it’s because he wants Temple all to himself, he never makes a move on her. It may be unnerving to Temple to know that he’s standing outside of the barn, watching her. But when you realize that Popeye and perhaps Van are still lurking about the grounds, and when you read about they way Popeye sneaks into the barn, you realize that Goodwin was probably just keeping an eye on Temple to protect her.

So, taking all this into consideration, it’s a lot easier to sympathize with Goodwin, now that he’s been tossed in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. And despite the face that they’re relationship hasn’t seemed too loving up to this point, he’s very concerned about Ruby’s well being with him in prison, and he speaks very fondly of her to Horace.

Anyway, Horace has taken the case not just because he feels sorry for Ruby, but because of his sense of justice. He knows that Goodwin didn’t commit this murder, and he’s determined to make sure he doesn’t pay for it. He may be a coward when it comes to the women in his life (his wife, Little Belle, Narcissa), but he’s sort of an idealist when it comes to the law, and that’s the one thing he doesn’t back down about, even in the face of Narcissa being a raging bitch.

The action then cuts back to right after Popeye has raped and kidnapped Temple. They’re in the car, leaving the Goodwin house, heading toward Memphis. Temple alternates between being numb and hysterical, and Popeye is pretty gruff with her, though strangely enough, not in the way you might expect. Most of the time anyway. The way he talks to her, it’s almost as though he’s a father talking to his daughter. But when she does start to become hysterical, he becomes much more forceful and rough.

Throughout the trip, Temple continues to bleed from the assault. She’s so mortified, she refuses to get out of the car when they come to a gas station. Even without the blood, though, it never seems to cross her mind to try to run away. Even when she does leave the car and make a break for it, it’s not because she’s trying to escape Popeye, but because she sees a boy she thinks she knows from school, and she doesn’t want him to see her.

Popeye takes Temple to Miss Reba’s, a brothel in Memphis. Miss Reba is a great admirer of Popeye, and is simply thrilled that he’s taken himself a girl, not seeming to be too concerned about the fact that the girl is completely traumatized. Popeye leaves her there, and Miss Reba takes Temple to a room to clean her up and call a doctor. She doesn’t seem to misunderstand the situation, it seems pretty clear that she knows Popeye has raped Temple, and while she’s a bit sympathetic to the trauma the girl’s gone through, she acts more like it’s an honor that Popeye chose to rape her.

To Be Continued…

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Sanctuary: Pages 53-105

Faulkner was really one of the great descriptive writers. He was able to so clearly describe a place and its feeling so that one could easily visualize it in their head. He relied on the senses, mostly sight and sound, to do so. And while he does this well in Sanctuary (how else could the atmosphere of the Goodwin house be so downright unnerving?), but he twists it into something shocking and perverted.

The idea of “looking” is presented in the first part of the book (Popeye and Horace peer at each other from across a stream for hours, a group of boys watches as Temple and Gowan speed off in their car), but it’s not until this part of the book that Faulkner twists plain looking into voyeurism. Temple is essentially trapped in a house with drunken, no-good men, her boyfriend is completely useless, and her only protectors are a woman who doesn’t seem to like her much and a mostly powerless halfwit. While things do actually physically happen to her over the course of the night, it’s not until the rape that occurs the next morning that anything is quite as terrifying as the plain looking.

Yes, she does get pawed at a bit by Van and Popeye during the night, but it’s the voyeurism committed by the men that is the most unnerving things. At one point, Popeye enters her room and simply stands over the bed, staring at her. The voyeurism in this moment is actually two-fold because, without Popeye realizing it, Ruby and Tommy, Temple’s protectors, are standing inside the dark room, watching him watching her.

In the morning, after Gowan goes to get a car and then up and abandons Temple, afraid of the gossip that will start about him in town if he brings her back, Temple hides in the barn (where Ruby took her and then protected her until sunrise). The protection of daylight is only an illusion. The remaining men stake out around the barn, simply watching Temple. She has one protector in Tommy, who stays outside the door, vowing to protect her. But he can’t protect her from Popeye, who sneaks in, completely unseen by the other men, through a door in the ceiling. He kills Tommy, and rapes Temple.

Ruby’s an interesting character, especially in this section. She’s sympathetic for the most part, being the lone woman amongst a gang of pretty awful men, and trying to be a protective mother. We get a little backstory on her as well, when she tells Temple about how her father shot he boyfriend right in front of her, and how she waited for Goodwin, even while he was in prison. And despite her dislike of Temple, she still takes care of her and protects her.

Temple’s pretty high-strung in this section, but who can blame her? She’s terrified and she has every reason to be. There are moments where she seems to try to calm her nerves, and at one point she tries to just calm down and go to sleep. But then the men bust in with a passed out Gowan and start pawing at her. Ruby’s analysis of her doesn’t seem that far off. She’s still basically a kid who thinks she’s living dangerously when she does bad things with boys, but she doesn’t know what to do when she comes in contact with a real man. But in all fairness to Temple, she is pretty much just a kid. She’s young, and stupid, and while her virtue may be in question, it’s hard to say that she’s done anything to deserve what she gets at the end of this section.

The section ends with what is, essentially, the beginning of the story. Popeye has shot Tommy and raped and kidnapped Temple. Goodwin has discovered the body and sent Ruby to the neighbor’s house to call the Sheriff.

To Be Continued….

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Sanctuary: Pages 1-52

While Sanctuary is among Faulkner’s most accessible works, it’s not one of the easiest books to get into if it’s the first time you’re reading it. For the first few chapters, it really does feel like a whole lot of nothing is going on. But in retrospect, these chapters are packed full of information and moments that are essential to understanding the book.

We’re introduced to our hero, if you can call him that, Horace Benbow. Now here’s where Faulkner really fascinates me. His books do not live in world unto themselves. Most of his novels are tied together through their setting, the fictional Yoknapataphwa county, and the characters in it. Not only does Faulkner reference both the important Snopes and Satoris families in this novel, but Horace Benbow also appears in Faulkner’s Flags In the Dust. Horace is, as all Faulkner protagonists are, tremendously flawed. Not very long after meeting him we discover that he’s left his wife because of his feelings for his step-daughter.

Inappropriate sexual feelings is a big theme in a lot of Faulkner’s work. He definitely had a fixation on family members feeling inappropriate things for other family members, and for poor Horace this isn’t even the first time it’s happened. In Flags In the Dust, there were clearly feelings being had for his sister, Narcissa. But that’s a whole other story (though there are hints of jealousy here and there in this book). In Sanctuary, his feelings for his step daughter, Little Belle, are his driving force to leave home. He decides to hitchhike to Narcissa’s home, and it’s while he’s doing this that he meets Popeye, our villain.

It’s clear from the beginning that Popeye’s not a good guy. He’s gruff, rude, and while he doesn’t do anything overtly horrible in these first few chapters, Faulkner writes him with an obvious air. There’s just something that hangs over Popeye, and the way that the other characters react to him, that we know he’s bad, that he’s going to do very bad things.

We also meet two other very important characters, bootlegger Lee Goodwin and his common-law wife, Ruby. We don’t get to know Lee very well. Ruby seems to be the important one here. We see that Popeye clearly has some strange hold over the house and this bizarre make-shift family, and that it both angers and terrifies Ruby. While we don’t get to learn too much about her in these first few chapters, through Horace we already start to feel a bit of sympathy for her. There’s a pretty important moment where the two have a quiet exchange where she shows him her baby, and he clearly feels sorry for the way she and her child have to live, and he promises to do something for her if he can. It’s this exchange that will eventually put a good deal of the story into play.

But beyond meeting those characters in these first few chapters, the most important thing Faulkner does is establish the atmosphere of Lee Goodwin’s house. It may not seem important at first, but it’s because of the terrifying and bizarre atmosphere that he establishes that we’re able to feel sorry for Temple Drake later.

Temple Drake is not presented as a particularly sympathetic character. We don’t know her for that long before she and her drunken date wind up at the Goodwin place, and in that short time we find out that she’s a girl with quite the reputation, and she comes of as something of a nag. But as the scene goes on, with her alcoholic jerk Gowan picking her up for a date, and then heading to Goodwin’s to get some liquor, we can tell where the scene is heading, and the while the tension builds before their car accident, so does the sympathy for Temple, because no matter how slutty and naggy a girl is, nobody deserves the freakshow that is to come.

Their car crashes, and they wind up at Goodwin’s house, but Goodwin’s not there, and alcoholic asshole Gowan thinks they should stick around and wait so he can get his liquor. So Gowan gets more and more drunk while Temple become, justifiably, more and more panicked and terrified. Especially when Ruby warns her not to stay after dark

To Be Continued…

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Faulkner February Begins Now!

Yeah, I wasn’t going to start for a few more days, but I started doing the math, and I got a tiny bit intimidated. I also got a bit intimidated by the size of The Hamlet.

I’m short on cash right now, so that means I’ll only be reading the Faulkners I already own. It would be nice to go out and by a few books for this that I haven’t read in a long time, like Light In August, but right now I’m stuck with what I have.

The Sound and the Fury is my favorite, so I figure I should END with that, so when I start getting frustrated, I can remember that I have that to look forward to. I’ve decided to start with Sanctuary, because it’s fairly accessible and I don’t want to get discouraged and quit my first book in. I’ll follow that with The Unvanquished, then As I Lay Dying, then The Hamlet, then The Reivers. And then Absalom, Absalom before The Sound and the Fury, because those books should ALWAYS be paired.

I’ll be reading AT LEAST 50 pages a day. Hopefully more. At the end of each day, I come here and post about what I’ve read.

Faulkner February means I will also be watching all the movies I can get my hands on. I need to do another YouTube search and check the interwebs and TCM’s schedule to see what else I can grab, but right now I think that’s just The Sound and the Fury, The Story of Temple Drake, and Intruder In the Dust. Yes, I’m going to subject myself to the TERRIBLE The Sound and the Fury adaptation. I will then either compare these movies to the books that I’ve read throughout the month, or I will simply review them (since I will not be reading Intruder In the Dust). So the movies part of the project might extend past March 7th for that reason.

The few weeks in March following Faulkner February will be filled with essays on my thoughts on EACH novel, AND essays on one particular topic from each book that I find compelling.

Yes, this is a lot of work. Yes, I have a lot of time on my hands. But at least I’m using that time for something that might at least make my brain work a little harder than it usually does.

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Filed under Books, Faulkner February