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Daniel Thomières (Reims)

Woman Trouble in Mississippi: The Empty Symptom of Sanctuary

Woman Trouble in Mississippi: The Empty Symptom of Sanctuary
William Faulkner's novels can be seen as experiments with technique and meaning. This essay proposes to analyze the character of Temple Drake in Sanctuary as the product of one of these experiments. It will be hypothesized that she represents an empty symptom and that this symptom must be interpreted in the context of the Southern patriarchy of the 1920s and 1930s. Every time Temple Drake tries to define what her identity and her desires are, she exhibits a hysterical structure revealing the emptiness inside her mind.

For William Faulkner, writing was very often synonymous with experimenting, and he rarely made it easy for his readers to understand the implications of his experiments. Part of these experiments included providing a diagnosis of the state of the south and of Southern culture.1 In other words, Faulkner assembled symptoms which readers are meant to decipher as several networks of signs pointing to something that went wrong at some level. This essay will attempt an analysis of Temple Drake's presence in Sanctuary.2 She is undeniably one of Faulkner's most fascinating creations. In the novel, she literally appears as an empty symptom. It looks as if there is nothing behind the lipstick and the frantic movements. It could be said that she is a character in search of a self, regularly opening her compact to look at herself and then closing it, dissatisfied. Her problem, Faulkner seems to imply, is identity. She lacks identity in the sense of being identical to herself as the ordeals she goes through destroy whatever stability or continuity she may have possessed. She also lacks identity in that she is unable to identify with acceptable roles and images.3 In order to know who she is she would need to know where she is, that is where she belongs, something which depends on stable relationships with her environment, as well as on the capacity to predict what is going to happen next in a given situation.

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Faulkner knew that in the patriarchal society of the South it is impossible for a woman to define who she is by herself.

One of the consequences of the fact that Temple is an empty symptom is that since 1931 readers have projected their fantasies and prejudices upon her. Positions vary between two poles. "She really deserves what she receives" (Schmuhl, for instance, Schmuhl 1964: 78) and "I hold that a woman is never responsible for rape" (Boon's initial statement, his own emphasis, Boon 1991: 33). It is debatable whether these statements can be borne out by a thorough study of the novel (380 pages in the 1931 edition, of which about one fifth are devoted to Temple, mainly presented by means of external focalization as in a good hard-boiled novel, but not systematically so, if one thinks of a passage when, at Miss Reba's brothel, she remembers her life at college, in the stream of consciousness mode). These critics appear — consciously or not — to be following their own private agendas.4 This essay, by contrast, will attempt a close analysis of the numerous signs in the novel in connection with Temple Drake. It will thus deal with the interpretation of textual clues and will offer the hypothesis that the young woman exhibits hysterical symptoms.

Hysteria at College

Traditionally, hysteria has always been a woman's disease. The word goes back to ancient Greek and means uterus. Hysteria referred to a series of symptoms that indicated that something was wrong with a woman's womb, resulting in a great deal of suffering. Psychoanalysis has however shown that hysteria doesn't have an organic cause and that it is not a disease with a fixed, ready-made symptomatology in the traditional sense of term. It is first and foremost a cultural phenomenon whose forms have varied considerably depending on the interpretation of different individuals and societies. Speaking of hysteria is basically a way of recognizing that a woman cannot fit into her environment and that she suffers and, as a result, reacts violently. In other words, it is a question of having or not having a place in society, an image and an identity. As a consequence, what the mind cannot represent, that is to say some irresistible pressure, causes the body to try to express it in a disorderly manner. Fundamentally (and that will be our conclusion), developing a hysterical structure is the only possibility for the subject to ask a vital question. It is a question Temple asks herself, and which, one is tempted to say, she also asks the readers of Sanctuary.5 Sigmund Freud offers his theory of hysteria in his analysis of Dora (Freud 1953).

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He also provides a number of insights in his comments on his friend, the butcher's wife, in The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud 1953b) which will prove invaluable to a reading of Sanctuary. In fact, hysteria should be considered as a structure which has to do with fantasy, or, if one prefers, with the imagination, and certainly not with anatomy. Jacques Lacan developed his conceptualization along these lines in "Presentation on Transference" (Lacan 1977) as far as Dora's case is concerned, as well as in "Direction of the Treatment and the Principles of its Power" (Lacan 1977) and in his Seminar XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis where he offers his comments on the dream of the beautiful butcher's wife (Lacan 2008).

Independently from Freud, let alone Lacan, Faulkner discovered on his own what hysteria is really about, when it is not merely associated with physical disorder.6 We could almost say that, just as psychoanalysis helps us understand Faulkner, the novelist helps us understand Freud and his followers. It is clear that, as often in his fiction, Faulkner uses Sanctuary in order to provide a diagnosis of what is wrong in the society of his time.

There are two key passages in the novel, which prove essential in that respect. The first is a kind of stream of consciousness development situated roughly at the middle of the book, pages 180-181. Temple is alone in her room at the brothel and she suddenly has a memory of her former life at college. This is the only moment in the novel in which Temple in presented through internal focalization. Obviously, something is important to her, and it still is in her present situation. She is the prisoner of a hysterical structure because she cannot answer the question raised by her dream-like memory. The scene takes place when the female students had just had a shower and are dressing for a dance. One of the girls ("the worst one of all", Faulkner 1931: 181) suddenly confesses, "that she had" (Faulkner 1931: 181). The conversation is about boys and seduction. In fact, it is mainly about sexual competition between the students. One of them decides that she wants to score an advantage. Did she really "have" sex with a boy? Has she lost her virginity? The fact that she may be lying in order to give a better image of herself is irrelevant. The problem has nothing to with her body. What matters is that her audience has to consider for themselves what having lost one's innocence implies. That young woman suddenly claims that she knows what experience is. She "knows" (Faulkner 1931: 181, 181, 182). The word is repeated three times. She ate the fruit of knowledge, which explains that she he is no longer a child, but a woman. What is fundamentally at stake is the fact that it has become a problem of symbols and identity. She is. She has.

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The scene in the dorm showers is described graphically. The other students react violently and express their jealousy at being forced to accept that one of them has proved superior to them in the war of the sexes. They stand in a circle around her with "their eyes like knives" (Faulkner 1931: 182). The theoretical problem is posed by the circle and it is a question of places. There are three possibilities as to where one can be. 1) In the middle of the circle, where "the worst one of all" (Faulkner 1931: 181) is, in a position that represents experience and a frontier crossed. 2) Outside the circle, like the "youngest one" (Faulkner 1931: 182) who rushes to the bathroom and vomits as proof of her innocence. 3) On the circumference of the circle where all the other girls minus the two above stand. That place represents an ambivalent position. It is a neither/nor position. The students are attracted by experience, but, at the same time, they are afraid of crossing the frontier of womanhood and knowledge.

All the other girls minus two? That may not be quite true after all, as the text is supposed to mirror the manner Temple's mind works. It is important to note that Temple in not present in the scene as it is recalled by her consciousness, whereas she was physically present in the scene in the dorm. That is precisely what characterizes the hysterical structure. The subject cannot have a representation of herself. Hysteria is fundamentally a question: who am I, which is here the same thing as asking: where am I? It may be hypothesized that, in her memory, Temple plays all the roles. She is looking for her identity, and more accurately for an identification.7 Will she be in position n° 1 (an adult with an active sexual life, possessing knowledge and experience, and possibly embodying evil)? In position n° 2 (still innocent)? Or in position n° 3 (unable to choose, uncertain where she exactly is)? Temple does not know. The problem is indeed made more acute as she is at present lying upon her bed at Miss Reba's brothel. What exactly does having had sexual intercourse represent for her? She has crossed a frontier (from a physical point of view) and at the same time (psychologically) she hasn't, that is to say that she did not choose to have sex with Popeye and his corncob. The hysterical structure implies a second series of attempts at identification. In the same way as, in their dreams, Dora and the butcher's wife tried to imagine what took place between two other persons, a man and a woman, Temple tries to identify with a relationship. What is that unidentified thing that supposedly took place between the girl in the middle of the circle and her mysterious partner? What exactly is implied by the notion of sexual rapport? What does a sexual rapport imply in her mind?8

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At bottom, what the structure shows is that this attempt at identication in fact supports a question: what does it means to be a woman? (After all, the ancient Greeks were right, except that the problem is not physical. What does the fact that I am endowed with a uterus signify for my identity?) Temple lives in a profoundly patriarchal society in which there is a crucial difference between men and women: men do not ask that question. They are sure of their position and do not need to question its representation. On the other hand, some women do not know. Some ask the question. These are the one that exhibit the structure of hysteria. There is, however, no answer. Temple's problem is that, in this scene, she tries to identify with all the other characters and with what possibly took place between them. She assumes that these characters possess an identity and that their rapport has a meaning of its own. She never identifies with herself. She knows that she is/has an empty self.

The Woman in the Shucks

Temple exhibits the same structure when she relates her rape to Horace Benbow (Faulkner 1931: 260-264). This time, readers are not inside her mind. They only hear what she says and there is obviously a possibility that she is lying. Horace believes that she is trying to impress him. This belief has probably more to do with the lawyer's prejudices and his views of women in general than with Temple who appears to have been like a trapped animal in front of Popeye. It seems reasonable to consider that what matters in the passage is that Temple falls back once again into a hysterical pattern in order to cope with her traumatic experience.

She produces an imaginary representation of her body. She tries to escape the threat confronting her and that implies transforming herself. What is important is that she is never herself. In point of fact, she knows that she can only be safe if she is another. She thus attempts to produce a series of new identities one after the other. None is sufficient. She tries six times as she cannot stop anywhere along the way. She is not herself. The problem is that she is not another either. She then faints as if her mind is overwhelmed and no longer able to produce images.

Her six attempts at identification are the following: 1) "a boy," 2) a dead person, 3) a body lying in a coffin with a veil "like a bride," 4) a 45 year old teacher with a switch, 5) an old man "with a long white beard," 6) the series ends when she grows a penis and becomes a man (Faulkner 1931: 262, 263, 264).

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The figures she conjures up can be construed as a desperate quest for respect and/or power, which in both cases means safety, being inviolated, in other words being herself. Looking at her identifications, it would seem that having an identity implies possessing or being associated to some object: to have is to be. Constructing an identity thus boils down to producing metonymies or synecdoches: a veil, a switch, a beard, a penis. If she can find the part, she will become a whole. Of course, readers know that she will not escape being raped. They also guess that she will never be herself whatever that means. A part will never produce a whole. If finding an identity is stopping at a final identification in a series, that quest is obviously an illusion. The question of identity can only be an unending quest with a goal that will always elude ourselves.

The whole process hinges on the articulation of part and whole. Temple believes that such a thing is possible and she never stops trying. At a deeper level, the problem lies in the impossibility of relating self and other. Things are particularly clear in Temple's moment of introspection when she reminisces her rape. She produces another series. It is this time a series of utterances. These four utterances are the only contemporary relation of the rape in the novel. Reality is obviously too traumatic and Temple's mind is unable to produce an image of a rape, or for that matter the word "rape." Readers will only very gradually learn much later what happened to the young woman at the Old Frenchman's Place. On the shucks of the crib, expressing her rape is for her equivalent to trying to address another person. The four utterances can in fact be reduced to three: 1) "Something is going to happen to me," 2) "Something is happening to me," 3) "I told you it was!" / "I told you! I told you all the time!" (Faulkner 1931: 121-122)9

There is a progression from "me" to "you." Me is an object, both grammatically and in reality. (Readers know that Temple has always been an object, whether at home in the middle of her four brothers, or at college, etc.) In utterance 3, the object is now you and I has become a subject, at least from a grammatical point of view. The problem, as Temple unconsciously knows very well, is that the I needs a you in order to be rescued. More profoundly, the I needs a you in order to exist, to be recognized. Identity is supported by the other. Who is Temple addressing here? On the face of it, she is calling for help and she believes that Pap will intervene. Pap, however, is a senile old man who is also deaf and blind. Temple is aware of all that. Through Pap, she is unconsciously calling someone else, someone more powerful. An obvious possibility is her father. That is traditionally what a father is for: protecting his daughter.

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Judge Drake, however, is far away in Jackson. He is an absent father. He has in fact always been absent. As a matter of fact, in the novel, she thinks of him twice (directly, that is, not through another person). She presumably possesses other memories of him, but it is always the same memory that recurs in the novel. "She thought of her father sitting on the veranda, in a linen suit, a palm leaf fan in his hand, watching the negro mow the lawn" (Faulkner 1931: 62). It would appear that, for Temple, her father is out of reach in a garden very far away. Gardens, however, are always lost, as is well-known. What is lost in fact is the possibility of a relationship with her father. Was there ever a relationship? In the one memory she has retained, the father does not look at her. The judge is exactly like the senile old man. He does not see Temple. It is as if she had never existed and consequently as if she never had had an identity.

The I, the self, identity, has to be guaranteed by another. Later, Temple will start calling Popeye "Daddy" (Faulkner 1931: 284). The gangster looks strong. He possesses his metonymy, his gun. Once again, Temple will try to cling to someone associated with power in order to salvage what little sense of identity she has. It is clear that Temple's mind works by means of series. In this case, it is actual father / Pap / Popeye / possibly Horace Benbow. She never finds the other that will enable her to be herself, that is to say, to stop the series.

Identity is thus always a problem of relationship. If I can establish a relationship, find the you, I will at last possess my identity. This should help us understand a little better the scene at the Grotto. What does Temple want exactly? There are several ways of answering the question without forgetting that she is extremely confused. It is above all important to notice that once again the hysterical structure reappears. She finally says to Red: "You're a man. You're a man." (Faulkner 1931: 288) She makes use of the same binary type of opposition as in I/you. You guarantees the existence of I and man guarantees woman. If you are a man, it follows that I can be a woman, that is, something, someone, instead of nothing, which is what Temple has been in the hands of Popeye. She has not even been a real sexual partner for him, even though he has a gun and therefore should be a man. Perhaps Red will, and they will escape together. Why escape? This scene will be analyzed in further detail further down.

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What Does Woman Want?

There are times when Temple seems to possess a self and desires. These moments, however, do not last. In fact, the young woman's life, if we are to judge from what the novel tells us, is a life of repetition which constantly follows the same identical pattern. Every time she tries to assert herself, she is immediately rebuffed. Such is what could be called her fate. She will not have an identity of her own and her desires will never be defined by herself. Every time too, she actualizes the hysterical structure.

Temple's desire is always represented in terms of space, and more specifically of frontiers. She seems endowed with curiosity. In other words, she keeps trying to cross frontiers to try to look elsewhere. Crossing a frontier, however, always results in her being deprived of her desire even more than she was before. In the process, she also loses what little freedom she may have possessed. Sanctuary lists four instances of that structure. The first chronologically speaking is only alluded to. At home, she had a father and four brothers. She was not allowed to look outside, so to speak. Her father and four brothers defined for her what her identity and desire should be. Secondly, the structure reappears when she is at college. A college dorm in those days looked like a prison, especially for female students. It is easy to understand why she wants to have novel experiences. She then escapes in order to attend a ball game. Readers guess that she is presumably more interested in having some fun, meeting boys and such things, than in sport. She is supposed to meet Gowan, a man from the town who has a car. When she arrives at the station, she jumps from the train before it stops "while an official leaned down and shook his fist at her." (Faulkner 1931: 41). Temple's transgression and conquest of freedom begins with a fall… Freedom immediately turns into becoming dependent upon a young man already drunk and caring only for more whiskey. Worse is to come.

The third instance of the structure takes place after Gowan's car crashes into a tree outside the Old Frenchman's Place (Faulkner 1931: 49-50). Gowan orders her to stay outside the house. She is, however, once again curious. She has a desire of her own and she wants to know what is beyond the frontier. She crosses the threshold and enters the mysterious house. She shouldn't have. She then loses her freedom for ever and suddenly finds herself in another world different from the privileged background from which she comes. The rules of the game that she was familiar with no longer apply. At college, she was used to flirting with boys with the full knowledge that nothing would happen to her or her body. In the garden, she suddenly sees female underwear drying in the sun.

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Symbolically, they define the way Temple will now be looked upon. She will become a body without desires or identity. In fact, she will only exist at the level of her genitals. In addition, the underwear is old and threadbare, as if to warn us that the sex games she will enter will be sordid and degrading. She runs away. "[She] fetched up on hands and knees in a litter of ashes and tin cans and bleached bones." (Faulkner 1931: 50). A new fall. Again, there is no going back.

Literally, at that point, she enters her fate. The moment she crossed the threshold, "[o]n the square of sunlight framed by the door lay the shadow of a man's head." (Faulkner 1931: 49) Readers will discover later that that shadow of a man is Popeye. Temple was curious, she wanted to see what is inside the house, what is outside her small world. What she did not anticipate is that she suddenly becomes caught in Popeye's gaze. She will never leave it. She will be an object submitted to his desire. In fact, symbolically, Popeye asks the right question: "What do you want?" (Faulkner 1931: 50) Temple literally does not know what she wants. Hysterics do not know what their desire consists in. That is why they are hysterics. Popeye will henceforth know for her. The young woman has left one aspect of patriarchy represented by her father and four brothers. She now enters a parody (a sordid mirror image?) of patriarchy. Popeye (the man she will call "Daddy") will define what the identity and the desire of the woman without qualities will be.10

Temple is very much like the Negro woman killed by her husband in Jefferson: "her whole head tossing further and further backward from the bloody regurgitation of her bubbling throat, she ran out of the cabin door and for six or seven steps up the quiet moonlit lane." (Faulkner 1931: 135) The woman is like a hysterical, disorganized body without a mind, or with an empty mind. In fact, in Sanctuary, women are always defined by patriarchy. They are the victims of it (or, like Narcissa, they manipulate its conventions in order to seize some of its power). With the murder of the black woman, patriarchy reaches its limits. For Temple, the process started immediately after the car crash outside the Old Frenchman's Place. She started running in a frantic way, "her head reverted." (Faulkner 1931: 44) In a world of men, be they judges or gangsters, a woman has no head, no brain, no identity of her own.

After that, Temple tries one last time to cross a border. At the Grotto, she attempts to elope with Red. Readers will learn later that Red will never leave the night-club alive and that, even though Temple escapes Popeye's presence, she apparently never escapes his power. In that scene, her mind once again is a blank. Asking what she wants is irrelevant.11

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In order to take a decision, to make choices, one needs to possess some sense of self. Temple does not. She has been drinking a great deal. Her mind is a confusion of perceptions, including a strange feeling of synesthesia: she cannot distinguish her desire from the music or the smell of her flesh, which she experiences as "swirling slowly about her in a bright myriad wave." (Faulkner 1931: 287). The key word is probably "myriad." She no longer has any identity nor unity. How can someone who is divided can assume a desire of her own? At one point, "[s]he could hear herself shouting […]" (Faulkner 1931: 286) as if she was not the origin of her words. More generally, very often, there is no continuity in her perceptions as they are separated by blanks, that is, by moments when she is unconscious: "Then she was walking…." (Faulkner 1931: 287) There is actually something magic about the way her mind works: "Then she became aware that the orchestra was playing the same tune as when Red was asking her to dance. If that were so, then it couldn't have happened yet." (Faulkner 1931: 286) This is the mad logic of desire: she wants Red to be alive in order to escape with him, and, at the same time, she knows that it will "happen," that he will be killed and that she will never be free.

At no moment does Temple try to envision Popeye's point of view. She believes she can leave the night-club with Red "without him [Popeye] there watching." (Faulkner 1931: 288) Popeye, however, does not drink. He sees and controls everything. The narrator, at one point, mentions that Temple does not know how to play crap and that the gangster is "coaching her." (Faulkner 1931: 286). He is indeed coaching her, directing her every move, especially when she believes that she is making her own decisions and following whatever desire has aroused her. Fundamentally, Popeye has not changed. His narcissism will not tolerate a single rival in his complete possession of the young woman. He killed Tommy who was trying to touch Temple's thigh in the crib. Popeye follows in the old tradition of patriarchy. A poor white like Ruby's father also understood it when he killed Frank, asking his daughter "Do you want it too?" (Faulkner 1931: 67) meaning his (phallic?) gun. Would Temple's father and her brothers have killed a young man who tried to go out with Temple back in Jackson? One thing is certain. It was up to them, and not to her, to choose whom she would eventually marry. At the Grotto, Temple is full of sexual desire. The situation is not much different from what Popeye wanted her to do in his room with Red on the bed. Once again, he is the metteur-en-scène directing the whole scene which this time will culminate with Red's death and Popeye's ultimate orgasm, or whatever constitutes an orgasm for him.12

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Temple finally approaches Red. "When he touched her she sprang like a bow, hurling herself upon him, her mouth gaped and ugly like that of a dying fish as she writhed her loins against him." (Faulkner 1931: 287) The passage is not about sex, but death. From a symbolic point of view, with her " voice," (Faulkner 1931: 287) she sends Red to his death. All the metaphors say so. In addition, at least one the metaphors should be pursued to its logical implications. A bow does not kill. The person holding the bow does. Temple is here only the instrument of Red's death. In all fairness, it should be recognized that she is not its cause.

In addition, Temple speaks in "parrotlike underworld epithet." (Faulkner 1931: 288)13 It should be clear that, in that scene, the words in her mouth are no more her own than they were at Goodwin's trial when she gives the District Attorney "parrotlike answers." (Faulkner 1931: 343).14 Even though she pretends to move without Popeye seeing, it is her eyes which are in fact "unseeing." They are described as endowed of the "blank rigidity of a statue's eyes." (Faulkner 1931: 287) From then on, Temple will stop trying to make decisions. The Grotto scene is the last manifestation of her hysterical structure and Red was the last opportunity for her to define herself who she is and what she desires. Are you a man? If you are, then I am a woman. Her problem is that she is unable to symbolize the fact that she is a woman. She is a parrot and a statue. Not just one metaphor, division again. She thus never escapes her fate. She has always been and she will always be an object defined by the men around her.

Should a Woman Be Naked?

The question now seems to be: how does a woman become a victim of patriarchy?15 In fact, a woman does not enter patriarchy. Frontiers are illusory. Women move from one state of patriarchy to another state of patriarchy, just like Temple moves out of her father and brothers' power to become Popeye's thing, and finally to return to her father's care when Popeye disappears. In other words, she never defines who she is or what her desire would be. Men, fathers define her. To believe that there are frontiers is only a manifestation of hysteria. A sort of curiosity leads her to imagine that she could enter another world where she would have at least more fun, if not a full-fledged new self. In the Southern society of the 30s, there is, however, no role a woman can play for herself. She remains an object to be married off, or violated.16

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In a remarkable episode, Temple is granted a vision of what woman's estate is. She develops what is almost a theory of patriarchy, or, at the very least, a theological version of it. That version is of course extremely unorthodox. Through his character, Faulkner rewrites Genesis in a critical way. We need to return to the passage depicting Temple is her room at Miss Reba's brothel. She reminisces about her life at college when the girls left the shower naked before dressing for a dance. The girls are discussing a most important problem. What is the best way of seducing a boy? Should we just walk naked in front of him?

The worst one of all said boys thought all girls were ugly except when they were dressed. She said the Snake had been seeing Eve for several days and never noticed her until Adam made her put on a fig leaf. How do you know? they said, and she said because the Snake was there before Adam, because he was the first one thrown out of heaven; he was there all the time. (Faulkner 1931: 181)

The Bible said it. A naked woman is innocent. In our postlapsarian world, however, women are never naked. Their bodies are hidden behind clothes and make-up. Men desire the woman they meet, that is to say women with their clothes on. Desire means imagining undressing and possessing them. Temple suddenly discovers that the Serpent was useless. Man was already evil and did not need to be tempted. Adam is the one who made the first decision, not Eve. He gave her clothes and henceforth women became sexual objects for men. Interestingly enough, Faulkner's revisionist Genesis never grants desires to women. Seducing a man is not a victory for a woman. It is just a role she is meant to play in a structure of power.17

Basically, in Sanctuary, possession very often boils down to a question of voyeurism. Temple would like to see, she is curious, as, for instance, when she enters the old house. There is, however, nothing to see, apart from old women's underwear and a old man whose eyes are "dirty yellowish clay marbles." (Faulkner 1931: 50). That whole thing seems contagious and in fact, Temple always ends up with blank, unseeing eyes, as, all the time, some man is gazing at her: Tommy, Van, Goodwin at the old house, the doctor, Miss Reba, Minnie through the keyhole, then Horace Benbow at the brothel, not to mention her sessions with Red in front of Popeye, and finally the crowd of men at the trial, etc. Gazing here is power, or at least an attempt at gaining a certain amount of power. What these men gaze at is her clothes, when she is removing them, or when she could remove them, as are Tommy or the male audience in the courthouse fascinated as they are by the corncob and what it hides.

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Temple's predicament could in point of fact easily be seen in terms of clothes: the raincoat she puts on in the crib and that is then violently taken off, the garish clothes Popeye buys for her in Memphis (she throws them in disgust on the floor), the fashionable new hat her father buys for her in Paris at the end of the novel. Is she so different from a doll boys play with, dress and try to undress? On the other hand, if you do not want to be violated, wear white dresses, like Narcissa, the conformist, the woman without curiosity who survives by manipulating the codes of patriarchy.

The novel ends with the young woman's new clothes. In that last scene, Temple is literally an empty symptom, a character who does not exist. She is with her father in the Luxembourg Gardens in the Latin Quarter of Paris. The judge does not even look at her. He is seated in the same position as the blind and deaf Pap of the Old Man's House, which is also the position in which Temple used to remember him in his garden at home. Not being inside a man's gaze, Temple is neither innocent nor impure. In patriarchy, a woman's identity and her desires are defined from outside herself. Here, she therefore has no identity and no desire. Her father is at the same time close by and far away, which means that no relationships will develop between father and daughter. Besides, the father is like the "spurious balustrade" (Faulkner 1931: 379) of the French Senate, a symbol of law and power defiled, false, empty too. Temple tries one last time to find out what her identity is. One last time, she seems to believe that she possesses an identity of her own. Her gaze follows a movement which is made up of three successive stages. First, she opens her compact, then immediately closes it, having found no answer. There will be no mirror stage, no identification to her self. She has no self, she sees nothing in her compact. Then, she looks at the statues in the Garden. They represent the only identification afforded to her. They are, however, "dead tranquil queens in stained marble." (Faulkner 1931: 379). Temple is once again compared to a statue, empty of life, having in addition forever lost whatever innocence she may have had. Finally, her eyes turn to "the sky lying prone and vanquished in the embrace of the season of rain and death." (Faulkner 1931: 379) There is nothing left to see, everything has dissolved into an indifferentiated nature. There is no object, and consequently no subject. Besides, differences have been abolished. "It had been a gray day, a gray summer, a gray year." (Faulkner 1931: 379) It is as if time no longer mattered, as if nothing would ever change. This is autumn in Paris. Did anything happen in spring in Mississippi?

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Apparently, in Temple's mind, nothing happened. All is gray and empty. If something happened, like the music played by the band in the park, it "crash[es] and die[s] in the thick green twilight." (Faulkner 1931: 379) The Luxembourg Gardens has thus never been a Garden of Eden. Perhaps there is no Garden of Eden.

The Woman as Empty Symptom

Temple Drake will remain for all eternity one of Faulkner's very special experiments. She is the empty symptom, the empty body and the empty mind. Her fate is to be filled by the men who cross her path, Popeye, the District Attorney, readers across the world since 1931, they will wield a corncob or project an interpretation, the list of objects could be infinite. Some readers will be women, but some women are more men than men, and, like Narcissa in the novel, they have perfectly interiorized the rules of patriarchy. Who will know the ultimate truth of Temple Drake? Certainly not the author of this essay.

Faulkner, as usual in his fiction, offers a diagnosis on two levels.18 On the one hand, patriarchy still prevails in the South. There is no frontier to cross, no going outside the patriarchal system. Jefferson is only the reverse of the Old Frenchman's Place (or of Memphis, where the leading citizens of Jefferson flock to satisfy their vices). It is just as corrupt. The novel begins with the mutual fascination of Horace and Popeye. Each of them sees in the other what he feels is missing in himself. Horace will slowly discover the "black stuff" hidden deep down in his unconscious, and the gangster will develop a taste for what he has always been excluded from, the lure of genteel society. He has always destroyed what other people desire, as well as other people who desire, starting with canaries when he was a child. Goodwin will indirectly be the last man to be sacrificed to his extreme narcissism. Then, when Temple is repossessed by her father and brothers, it appears that his dream is broken. He no longer possesses the little rich girl, the judge's daughter. Death now is the only alternative for him.

On the other hand, Faulkner also proposes a psychological diagnosis. Obviously, not all women are hysterical. Narcissa, Belle or Little Belle are not. Ruby is not either. They know who they are, or, rather, they play the various traditional roles available to them in their society. Hysteria, however, is a question. Who am I? What is my desire? What is a woman?

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There is no answer. Occasionally a young woman is not satisfied. Temple is not. Her curiosity would perhaps have made of her a witch if she had lived in 17th century Massachusetts. She takes risks, tries to cross borders, imagines that there will be an answer, outside, elsewhere. There is, however, only emptiness. The mind cannot cope and the body then reacts in a disorganized manner, which is the secondary symptom of hysteria. Why did Temple become the victim of this hysterical structure? What made her ever so slightly different? The novel does not say. The fact that there is no mother at home may possibly have contributed, but in all likelihood the structure established itself very early in her unconscious. Jacques Lacan offers that this sort of psychological problem is generally due to a failure of what he calls the mirror stage. One of the two parents did not react in the right way, he or she was too close or too far away. There probably was some imperceptible event, some very minute trauma of which Temple was not aware at the time. She then could not identify with her self, let alone with the roles her society will later offer her when she starts growing up. Henceforward, the hysterical structure will become actualized whenever the context is favorable. Marcel Proust would certainly have tried to pinpoint that invisible original detail. Faulkner had in mind another type of novelistic experiment.


Aristotle (1989): Topics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Boon, Kevin A. (1991): "Temple Defiled: The Brainwashing of Temple Drake in Faulkner's Sanctuary." The Faulkner Journal, VI/2. (33-49)

Clarke, Deborah (1994): Robbing the Mothers: Women in Faulkner. Jackson: The University of Mississippi Press.

Cox, Dianne Luce (1986): "A Measure of Innocence: Sanctuary's Temple Drake." Mississippi Quarterly, XXXIX/3. (301-324)

Cypher, James A. (1962): "The Tangled Sexuality of Temple Drake." American Imago, 19/3, (243-252).

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Deleuze, Gilles (1997): Essays Critical and Clinical. The University of Minnesota Press.

Duvall, John N. (1990): "‘Man Enough to Call You Whore': And Daddy Makes Three in Sanctuary." in Faulkner's Marginal Couple: Invisible, Outlaw, and Unspeakable Communities. Austin: The University of Texas Press.

Faulkner, William (1931): Sanctuary. New York: Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith.

Faulkner, William (1951): Requiem for a Nun. New York: Random House.

Freud, Sigmund (1953): "Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria." in The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol VII, London: The Hogarth Press.

Freud, Sigmund (1953b): The Interpretation of Dreams. New York: Avon.

Garnier, Caroline (2010): "Temple Drake's Rape and the Myth of the Willing Victim." In Annette Trefzer and Ann J. Abadie, Faulkner's Sexualities: Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha, Jackson: The University of Mississippi Press. (164-183)

Gwin, Minrose C (1990): The Feminine and Faulkner: Reading (Beyond) Sexual Difference. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press.

Jones, Ernest (1955): Sigmund Freud: Life and Work. Vol 2: The Years of Maturity 1901-1919. London: Hogarth Press.

Kirchdorfer, Ulf (1991): "Temple as a Parrot." The Faulkner Journal, VI/2. (51-53)

Lacan, Jacques (1977): Écrits: A Selection. New York: Norton.

Lacan, Jacques (2008): The Seminars, Book XVII: The Other Side of Psychoanalysis. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Lacan, Jacques (1998): The Seminars, Book XX, Encore, On Feminine Sexuality: The Limits of Love and Knowledge. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

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Matthews, John T. (1984): "The Elliptical Nature of Sanctuary." Novel, 17:3, Spring 1984. (246-265)

Muhlenfeld, Elisabeth (1986): "Bewildered Witness: Temple Drake in Sanctuary." The Faulkner Journal, I/2, Spring 1986. (43–45)

Petesch, Donald A. (1979): "Temple Drake: Faulkner's Mirror for the Social Order." Studies in American Fiction, VII, Spring 1979. (37-48)

Pettey, Homer B. (1987): "Reading and Raping in Sanctuary." The Faulkner Journal, III/1, Fall 1987. (71-84)

Rayley, Kevin (1998): "The Social Psychology of Paternalism: Sanctuary's Cultural Context." In Donald Kartiganer and Ann Abadie, Faukner in Cultural Context,. Oxford: The University of Mississippi Press. (75-98)

Scheel, Kathlen M. (1997): "Incest, Repression, and Repetition-Compulsion: The Case of Faulkner's Temple Drake." Mosaic, Dec. 1997, 30/4. (39-55)

Schmuhl, Robert (1964): "Faulkner's Sanctuary: The Last Laugh of Innocence." Notes on Mississippi Writers, 6, 1964. (73-80)

Strong, Amy Lovell (1993/1994): "Machines and Machinations: Controlling Desires in Faulkner's Sanctuary." The Faulkner Journal, Fall 1993-Spring 1994, 9/1-2. (69-81)

Tebbetts, Terrell (2003): "Sanctuary, Marriage, and the Status of Women in 1920s America." The Faulkner Journal, Fall 2003, 19/1. (47-60)

Urgo, Joseph B. (1983): "Temple Drake's Truthful Perjury: Rethinking Faulkner's Sanctuary." American Literature, Vol. 55/3, Oct. 1983. (435-444)

Voth, Danna (2006): "Ignis Fatuus in Faulkner's Sanctuary." In Ben P. Robertson and Richard Scott Nokes, Conflict in Southern Writing. Troy, The Association for Textual Study and Production, with Troy University. (113-121)

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1 One is reminded of Gilles Deleuze's assertion when he explains that writers are (like) physicians. See his Essays Critical and Clinical, especially the first chapter, "Literature and Life." (Deleuze 1997) Deleuze briefly gives some examples: Herman Melville, Thomas Wolfe, Franz Kafka, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, etc. William Faulkner could certainly constitute a valuable addition to that list. The term ‘diagnosis' means collecting symptoms and establishing distinctions between them (dia), and then producing a body of knowledge (gnosis) that can later be used critically in order to enhance life. Following Deleuze in this respect, this essay will consider that, among other functions, literature helps us discover for ourselves new possibilities to relate to ourselves, others and the divine.

2 Perhaps the best study of Temple Drake is Cox's 1986 essay. Cox presents a deeply sympathetic study of a teenager who is desperately lost in a new, hostile universe and who keeps looking for a sanctuary only to repeatedly discover that there is no sanctuary. This essay will try to be just as sympathetic and also avoid passing judgment on a literary character. A more theoretical approach based on a number of psychoanalytical developments should, however, help us discover the underlying logic of Faulkner's experiment in Sanctuary. In this respect, Cypher had already proposed a Freudian reading of the novel in his 1962 Imago article (Cypher 1962). It is fair to recognize that, today, Cypher's analysis seems to be a superficial series of disconnected remarks without much resemblance to what Freud would have written if he had undertaken a case study of Temple Drake, perhaps like the one he wrote of Dora. More generally, Cypher and Imago are not interested in more modern European psychoanalytical theories, such as, for instance, Jacques Lacan's. Thirdly, Clarke has a excellent chapter on the novel in the chapter "Sexuality, Inhumanity, and Violation: Sanctuary and The Hamlet," in her Robbing the Mothers (Clarke 1994: 51-69). She gives us a balanced, though mainly factual, view of Temple as a young woman who is not yet an adult but is forced to lead an adult's life. Clarke unfortunately does not devote much space to Temple and never develops her insights. Lastly, Muhlenfeld's 1986 essay offers a roughly similar analysis.

3 Ever since Aristotle's Topics (1989), identity has always been seen as of two types. Admittedly, the Greek philosopher's concern was with logic, but his concepts can be adapted to psychological problems, especially for the purpose of an analysis of Faulkner's Sanctuary. To simplify, he distinguished between numerical identity (a thing remains identical with itself although it changes through time: a = a) and qualitative identity (involving a relation between two different things which nonetheless share a number of similarities, such as belonging to the same set, as, for instance when I say that I am a German Jew in 1933, and/or that I belong to the fans of Cecilia Bartoli, etc. In this case, we are dealing with identity as identification: a = x, y, z…).

4 It is undeniable that our judgment is unquestionably influenced by the towering presence of Horace Benbow in the novel. Benbow makes it very clear that the young woman he meets in Memphis derives "pride" at recounting her rape (Faulkner 1931: 259). Her confession in Requiem for a Nun has if anything worsened the case against her. We seem to have overlooked the fact that she was then eight years older and that therefore she may have changed. Faulkner himself was 20 years older and had changed considerably. The Temple Drake of Requiem must be considered as another character and it is probably safe to admit that in 1951 Faulkner had different concerns when he finally declared that "Temple liked evil." (Faulkner 1951: 135)

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5 John T. Matthews raises similar issues. His essay, however, deals more with Horace Benbow than with Temple (Matthews 1984). He also devotes a lot of attention to the original manuscript of Sanctuary. It could be objected that the text we are reading is a different novel from the uncut manuscript — published only in 1981 — in the same way as it is different from Requiem for a Nun, even though these three books are about Temple Drake. Matthews is perfectly right when he draws our attention to a number of important passages such as that description of Temple being "no longer quite a child, not yet quite a woman," but he then keeps on explaining that the young woman "passes from innocence to corruption." It may be argued that Temple is not corrupt (Faulkner 1931: 106). Besides, what exactly does being corrupt mean? Can one honestly maintain that she falls in love with Red? If, as the novelist said, she is neither a child, not an adult, it could be argued that there is no passage from one state to another. This is what this essay tries to develop.

6 Interpreting Temple's behavior thanks to the concept of hysteria has so far only been attempted by Pettey 1987. His essay does not, however, develop any of the theoretical dimensions of hysteria. On the other hand, Pettey offers some interesting insights into the role of the reader. Are we also tempted to "rape" Temple Drake, that is to say impose our personal judgments and obsessions upon her?

7 Jacques Lacan will probably be chiefly remembered for his theory of the mirror stage. Identity starts when the baby identifies with his image in a mirror or possibly with another child. One always identifies with something that is outside, never with oneself, but with another (starting with a reverse image in a mirror, that is to say someone that literally is not myself). The self at first does not exist. It is then constituted and the subject will go on identifying with all kinds of figures, or more precisely with traits in other people that appeal to the subject's imagination. As a consequence, the self is fundamentally an assemblage of images and identifications. Cf. Jacques Lacan, "The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as revealed by Psychoanalytic Experience" (in Écrits.)

8 "Il n'y a pas de rapport sexuel." All throughout his life, Jacques Lacan kept returning to this formula. Lacan never intended to say that there is no sexuality. There are obviously bodies connecting and interpenetrating each other. What he meant was that there is no rapport between genders, and more specifically that men and women will never communicate, let alone discover some sort of communion in the sex act. Lacan adds by way of explanation: "Le rapport sexuel est ce qui ne cesse pas de ne pas s'écrire." ("The sexual relationship doesn't stop not being written", Lacan 1998, 59). There is little doubt that William Faulkner would have heartily agreed: in Sanctuary, he literally never stops writing about sexual relationships in order to tell us that no such thing will ever take place.

9 It is difficult to be convinced by Kathleen M. Scheel's argument in "Incest, Repression, and Repetition-Compulsion: The Case of Faulkner's Temple Drake" when she maintains that "you" refers to her real father (Scheel 1997). Scheel imagines that what matters in the novel is not the rape of Temple by Popeye in the crib, but an earlier rape of Temple at home by her (four?) brothers. Nothing in the text justifies that gratuitous reading. In addition, Scheel refers to an early stage of Freud's theory which he abandoned afterwards.

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10 In a letter, Freud confessed to Marie Bonaparte: "The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is ‘What does a woman want?'" (reported by Ernest Jones 1955 in his biography of Freud, Vol. 2, 468). "Was will das Weib?" Freud does not know. He kept asking. He came up with his theory of hysteria. His French followers did not know either. Jacques Lacan, for one, kept asking too when he refined Freud's theorization of hysterics. (Cf. Seminar XX: Encore). On the other hand, Popeye knows. Or, rather, he does not know. In fact, he does not need to know. He does not care. He decides what Temple wants.

11 The question is often asked by critics who generally come up with the conclusion that she is a slut or some equivalent epithet. They usually claim that she desires Red's body. It could, however, be argued that the passage taken as a whole with all its complexity reveals that she is first and foremost trying to establish some sort of identity out of Popeye's clutches. To do so, she needs Red, the gangster that looks like "a college boy" (Faulkner 1931: 283), in other words who creates the illusion that he can be trusted and that the old rules of the game will prevail. Besides, what else could she do with Red? Have sex outside Popeye's presence? How long? How often? Where? It is more likely that for her Red represents the possibility of a border to cross.

12 That triangular structure is one of the key patterns behind the novel: Father kills daughter's lover in order to continue possessing daughter. Patriarchy is here pushed to its extreme implications. Daughters are objects and — symbolically and possibly physically too — they belong to their fathers. The structure has been particularly well studied by Duvall 1990 to whose essay I am deeply indebted.

13 That detail was duly noted by Kirchdorfer in a short essay that unfortunately does not elaborate on his implications (Kirchdorfer 1991). Urgo's American Literature essay "Temple Drake's Truthful Perjury: Rethinking Faulkner's Sanctuary." is not really about Temple, but Horace Benbow's neurosis (Urgo 1983).

14 In a way, it could be said that Temple has been "brainwashed" by Popeye. See Boon's essay on that question (Boon 1991). There remains, however, to reconstruct the mechanism of that "brainwashing". Boon limits himself to mentioning that Temple drinks too much gin, is surrounded by hostile people and is not stimulated intellectually. At no point is his analysis concerned with the way the character's mind works, let alone her unconscious. I believe that it is more illuminating to speak of the manifestation of a hysterical structure in a deeply patriarchal society. More interesting is Caroline Garnier's study that considers that Temple is first and foremost a victim (Garnier 2010). At least, we know that she never wanted to be raped.

15 Considerations about hysteria in Faulkner's novel are inseparable from an analysis of patriarchy in Southern culture. On the latter question, see Danna Voth's excellent essay (Voth 2006). The question was also well covered in Amy Lovell Strong's "Machines and Machinations: Controlling Desires in Faulkner's Sanctuary" (Strong 1993/1994).

16 In other words, Sanctuary cannot be separated from the social context which constitutes its background. See in this respect Terrell Tebbetts's "Sanctuary, Marriage, and the Status of Women in 1920s America" (Tebbetts 2003). More specifically focused in the novel, Kevin Rayley's illuminating essay, "The Social Psychology of Paternalism: Sanctuary's Cultural Context," is also well worth reading (Rayley 1998).

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17 Faulkner was indeed an incorrigible revisionist. In this respect, Minrose C. Gwin is unquestionably right when she puts forward that Faulkner spoke "bisexually." He was a man, but at the same time he could feel what a woman's otherness in the South was (Gwin 1990: 2-33). More generally, in other novels, Faulkner revealed a gift for understanding what it meant to be the other in his society, especially when he showed a profound sympathy for the plight of native Americans and of colored people.

18 It is perhaps time to pay tribute to an old but penetrating article by Petesch who rightly linked patriarchy and Temple's psychological make-up (Petesch 1979). Petesch points out that the young woman has neither self nor freedom in her society. She can only identify to father figures.