Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Horace Benbow, on his way to Jefferson one afternoon, stops to drink from a spring on the Old Frenchman place. When he rises, he sees an undersized man in a black suit watching him; the man’s hand is in a pocket that holds his gun. Satisfied at last that the lawyer is not a revenue officer, Popeye leads Benbow to the gutted ruins of a plantation house. That night the lawyer drinks moonshine and eats with Popeye, several moonshiners, and a blind and deaf old man, the father of Lee Goodwin, one of the moonshiners. They are fed by Ruby, Goodwin’s woman. Later, Benbow is given a lift into Jefferson on a truck loaded with whiskey on its way to Memphis.
The next afternoon, at his widowed sister’s home, Benbow watches her walking in the garden with young Gowan Stevens. Stevens leaves that evening after supper because he has a date with a woman at the state university the following night. The woman is Temple Drake.
After a dance, Stevens gets drunk. He awakens the next morning in front of the railroad station. A special train taking university students to a baseball game already left. Driving rapidly, Stevens catches up with the train in the next town. Temple jumps from the train and climbs into his car. Disgusted with his disheveled appearance, she orders him to drive her back to the university. Stevens insists that he promised to drive her to the game. On the way, he decides to stop at Goodwin’s place to buy more whiskey.
Stevens wrecks his car when he strikes a tree across the lane leading to the house. Popeye takes Temple and Stevens to the house. Temple goes into the kitchen, where Ruby sits smoking and watching the door. When Temple sees Stevens again, he is drunk. Then Popeye refuses to drive them back to town. Temple is frightened. Ruby tells Temple to go into the dining room to eat with the men.
One of the men tries to seize her, and Temple runs from the room and hides in a back room. Tommy, one of the moonshiners, follows her with a plate of food. The men begin to quarrel, and Stevens is knocked unconscious and carried into the house. Goodwin and a moonshiner named Van tussle until Popeye stops them. When Van finds Temple in one of the bedrooms, Goodwin knocks him down.
Then begins a series of comings and goings in the bedroom. Ruby comes to stand quietly in the darkness. Later, Popeye appears and stands silently over the girl. After he goes, Goodwin enters to claim a raincoat in which Temple wrapped herself. Popeye returns once more, followed noiselessly by Tommy, who squats in the dark beside Ruby. When the men finally leave the house to load the truck for its run to Memphis, Ruby takes Temple out to the barn and stays with her until daylight.
Stevens awakens early and starts out for the nearest house to hire a car. Feeling that he cannot...
(The entire section is 1154 words.)
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Summary (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
In 1929, while angered at the poor reception of his The Sound and the Fury (and possibly at the previous rejection of Flags in the Dust), Faulkner wrote a first version of Sanctuary as the most violent, most salacious novel possible, in order to make money. Later, Phil Stone, his lawyer friend and mentor, persuaded him that the work was unworthy of the author of The Sound and the Fury or of the short stories “A Rose for Emily” and “That Evening Sun Go Down” (1931). Faulkner did extensive revision, toning down the violence and sex (although much remains) and rewriting Sanctuary as a work of excellent literary quality. Whereas the earlier version had been rejected, the later was published.
Sanctuary’s main characters include Horace Benbow and, to a lesser extent, his sister Narcissa, already seen in Sartoris. She is living in the family home with Aunt Sally (no blood kin); he is out in the country, a troubled soul separated from his wife, Belle, and her daughter Little Belle. Horace comes to some property closely guarded by a criminal element of people: Popeye is an amoral, almost inhuman, unfeeling psychotic killer, a petty gangster; Lee Goodwin is a bootlegger in business with Popeye; Ruby Lamar is his wife. Horace is sexually attracted to Ruby. Eventually, he is allowed to leave the premises.
Later, Gowan Stevens, a self-centered young Virginia man, gets drunk and causes Temple Drake, an eighteen-year-old college student who is the daughter of a judge, to forfeit a trip to a football game. Eventually they, too, find themselves at Goodwin’s place, Gowan too drunk to cope and Temple, warned by Ruby of her danger and shocked by the men she observes, hysterical, running all around the place.
One of the men is murdered by Popeye, who attacks Temple and later holds her captive in a Memphis brothel. Lee Goodwin is imprisoned in Jefferson for the murder, and Horace agrees to defend him, presumably to be paid in services by...
(The entire section is 830 words.)