Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Mrs. Gowan Stevens

Mrs. Gowan Stevens, née Temple Drake, the central character of William Faulkner’s earlier worky Sanctuary (1931), a novel in which Temple is abducted by a petty criminal, Popeye Vitelli, and forced to live in a Memphis brothel. She is both repulsed by and attracted to the evil and sexually strange outlaw and even provides perjured testimony to protect Popeye from a murder charge. At the end of Sanctuary, Temple is taken abroad by her father for a long rest cure. By the opening of Requiem for a Nun, she has married and is the mother of two children: a son, Bucky, and an infant daughter who is smothered in her crib by Nancy Mannigoe. The dramatic episodes in the novel explore the lingering connection between Temple’s past life of degradation and obsession with her current one of guilt and remorse. She still experiences some lingering attraction for the sexual license released during her captivity, and she agrees to run away with one of her captor’s brothers in the backstory at the beginning of the novel.

Gowan Stevens

Gowan Stevens, who in Sanctuary was responsible for placing Temple in Popeye’s control by getting drunk and smashing his car on a back road in search of more bootleg liquor. What began as a college spree turns increasingly ugly. Unable to control his drinking, Gowan is unable to help Temple, and he eventually runs away, leaving her in the control of the criminal. Gowan feels responsible for destroying Temple’s reputation, and by the time of Requiem for a Nun, he has married her and assisted her in living down the perfidy of her past....

(The entire section is 686 words.)