Temple Drake: A Sympathetic Victim Essay

1548 words - 7 pages

Temple Drake is the pivotal character at the center of William Faulkner’s controversial 1931 novel, Sanctuary. In Sanctuary, Temple’s responses to crimes against her raise an important question: Is Temple herself to blame for the rape and sexual corruptions that she suffers? Literary critics have labelled Temple as a “nymphomaniac” who “deserves to be raped”. However, a close look at the text reveals that the Temple was not a willing victim who wanted to be attacked. Temple attempts escape, both physically and emotionally, and resists what is happing to her as much as she is able to. Her ability to fight back has been altered a result of the way that Temple was raised. In a culture that is quick to blame the victims of sexual assaults, one must take a critical look at the ways that she rejects the actions taken against her. Temple Drake can be sympathized with as a victim who does not desire, nor deserve, the treatment that she receives.
When looking at Temple’s actions in the novel, one must consider that she was raised in a household dominated by men. These men, her father and four brothers, used, dominated, and controlled her in a place where there is no maternal influence to instruct her about being a woman. The men in her life offered only inadequate protection at their own terms. Even at college, Temple comes and goes only at the whims of men who take her on dates in their cars. She does not know how to operate without the influence of a male, and this is reflected in her actions.
While Temple is at the plantation, she is constantly in flight, running and hiding whenever she can. She is terrorized in particular by Lee Goodwin, but also Van and Popeye as well. She has never depended on herself, so she looks to others, especially the men, throughout the time she is there. She initially looks to Gowan for escape. She wants him to take her away, but he is drunk and ineffective in protecting her, and eventually goes as far as abandoning her to her fate. She looks to Ruby for help in escape as well, but Ruby rejects her and rescinds her initial offer of help in using the car. She even looks to Tommy for protection, however Tommy’s lower mental capacity and ability to be influenced by Goodwin results in Tommy wanting to take advantage of her himself. In desperation, she even screams out to Pap, who is blind and dead, during the most violent attack, despite his inability to help her.
During the night at the Old Frenchman place, ultimately Temple can turn to no one for help. She undresses, perhaps in an effort to rid herself of the clothing that would make her attractive to the men. She puts on her coat, an outer layer of protection, and finds a raincoat, an even more protecting layer, and puts that on as well. She is exhausted, and lies down on the cornhusk mattress, where she is terrorized by Van, Popeye and Goodwin. As she recounts these events to Horace, we learn what is going through her mind during this scene. She becomes so angry at...

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