Temple Drake Stevens

Character Key Number: 
Display Name: 
Temple Drake Stevens
Sort Name: 
Stevens, Temple Drake
Parent Character Key: 
Ever Present in Yoknapatawpha?: 

As Temple Drake, she is the principal character in Sanctuary (1931); as Temple Drake Stevens, she is at the center of the dramatic portions of Requiem for a Nun. She is (as she says frequently in the first novel) the daughter of a judge, a member of an aristocratic family, and a very complex young woman. In the first novel she is a seventeen-year-old college student, "a small childish figure no longer quite a child, not yet quite a woman" (89), the heir to southern traditions trying on the contemporary role of flapper. In the second, set a decade later, she is a young mother of two who feels most at home in the company of a former prostitute and a small-time crook. The story Faulkner is interested in using her to tell is sensational and ironic but at the same time informed by his interest in and anxieties about the cultural phenomenon of the new woman who emerges after the First World War. That story begins when she is taken beyond the bounds of her upper class environment in Sanctuary. In the first part of the novel she is horrifically raped, but when her attacker carries her to a Memphis brothel she seems to find a new life in its erotically and emotionally bizarre surroundings. At the end she perjures herself to get an innocent man convicted of rape and murder, and goes back to her father's side. Readers are likely to be alternately sympathetic and appalled. In Requiem Faulkner forces "Temple Drake Stevens," a wife and mother, to confront her past as "Temple Drake" - the part of her that responds deeply to passions and people who have no place in her conventional life; as part of that process she must confess the role that deeper self played in the murder of her own infant daughter. In the first novel Horace Benbow fails in his attempt to rescue her, but it seems that in the second Gavin Stevens (with the help of Nancy, the black former prostitute who sacrifices herself for Temple) is able to lead her to redemption.