Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Popeye, a cruel, passionless killer who is symbolic of the ruthless, sterile, and materialistic exploitation that destroyed the antebellum social order of the South. Ironically, he is executed for a murder he did not commit.
Temple Drake, a college girl of good family who is attacked by Popeye and then sent to live the life of a prostitute in a bawdy house in Memphis. Her family removes her from the house of ill repute, but her life has been ruined.
Lee Goodwin, a moonshiner who tries to protect Temple from a group of bootleggers and who is accused of murdering Tommy, a gang member actually shot by Popeye. He is convicted, but before he can be sentenced, he is burned to death by a mob that storms the jail to take him.
Gowan Stevens, a college student whose irresponsible conduct causes Temple to become Popeye’s victim.
Ruby Lamar, Goodwin’s common-law wife, who helps the officers locate Temple in Memphis.
Horace Benbow, a lawyer who defends Goodwin and who is symbolic of the early Southern historical tradition.
Tommy, a bootlegger whom Popeye kills, and of whose death Goodwin is accused.
Miss Reba Rivers
Miss Reba Rivers, the madam of the Memphis bawdy...
(The entire section is 273 words.)
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The characters of Sanctuary are almost all disturbing. Temple Drake seems to swing wildly from, one personality to another, from a teenager terrified of sexual violation, to a vampire who will kill for sex, to a mechanical doll who will calmly lie for Popeye in court. Popeye looks like a child playing at being a gangster. He visits his mother annually, yet he exploits and kills without a twinge of conscience. Faulkner develops a detailed biography of Popeye in the last chapter to show the human side of his inhumanity, that his monstrousness has its source in the failure of his family and culture to teach him a way to achieve meaning.
Horace is disturbing because, although he wants what is good, he is crippled in many ways. His main deficiency shows in his inability to handle an incestuous attraction to his stepdaughter. He cannot let this attraction into his consciousness and deal with it there. Cling though he might to traditional values, he is unable to make them work. He cannot face what he believes is evil in himself and find strategies to control it. Likewise, he remains ignorant of the nature of evil in his world.
(The entire section is 198 words.)