Critical Evaluation

Requiem for a Nun is William Faulkner’s sequel to Sanctuary (1931), which first introduced Temple Drake. In Sanctuary, Faulkner provided the groundwork for Temple’s subsequent feeling of inevitable doom, which is a result of her being abducted and raped with a corncob by a sexually impotent man, Popeye Vitelli. After the traumatic rape, Temple entered into a state of psychological dissociation and became Popeye’s prostitute. Her sense of moral disconnect was further highlighted when she deliberately caused an innocent man to be executed. Not only did Temple impede justice, but she also sentenced herself to a hopeless future.

When she reappears in Requiem for a Nun, Temple is the reformed Mrs. Gowan Stevens, the mother of two children. One of her children is murdered because Temple fails to choose the present over the past. In Requiem for a Nun, Faulkner illustrates the psychological bondage that occurs when the human heart is in conflict with itself, which, according to Faulkner, “is only worth writing about.”

Requiem for a Nun stands out in Faulkner’s oeuvre for its unorthodox structure. The novel is divided into three acts, each of which begins with a prose section and continues with dramatic scenes. The prose sections fill in much of the information missing from Faulkner’s other prose works about the history of Yoknapatawpha County. These sections also illustrate Faulkner’s ideas about the function of memory in shaping a communal consciousness and in establishing a sense of place and belonging. The various scenes in each act convey the novel’s present plot involving Temple and Nancy.

While the plot centers around the murder of the Stevens’ infant child, Faulkner develops it through his characterization of Mrs. Gowan Stevens/Temple Drake. The dual-named character illustrates Faulkner’s belief in the inevitable conflict of the human heart: Mrs. Gowan...

(The entire section is 804 words.)