In chapter 23 of William Faulkner's novel titled Sanctuary, Temple is saying, "touch me, touch me, you're a coward if you don't." Is she really saying this, or only saying it in her head?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 23 of William Faulkner's novel titled Sanctuary, Temple Drake recalls herself saying to Popeye, "touch me, touch me, you're a coward if you don't" (218). However, this recollection is just that: a recollection.  She does not speak these actual words to Miss Reba, or, if she does, Faulkner leaves the matter quite unclear.  Here is how the passage appears in the novel itself:

"Oh, yes; this was something else funny I did." She told about lying in the darkness with Gowan snoring beside her, listening to the shucks and hearing the darkness full of movement, feeling Popeye approaching. She could hear the blood in her veins, and the little muscles at the corners of her eyes cracking faintly wider and wider, and she could feel her nostrils going alternately cool and warm. Then he was standing over and she was saying Come on. Touch me. Touch me! You're a coward if you dont. Coward! Coward!

Notice that there are no quotation marks around the final lines of this passage.  The quotation marks end with the word "did."  They resume, however, at the beginning of the very next paragraph, which begins: "I wanted to go to sleep, you see."

Thus, Faulkner implies that Temple may tell Miss Reba about her recollection of her words to Popeye, but he does not quote her as actually saying those precise words.

As is true of much of Faulkner's writing, this passage is thought-provoking in its lack of absolute and simple clarity.

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