First published in 1931, this classic psychological melodrama has been viewed as more of a social document in his tragic legend of the South than mere story. From Popeye, a moonshining racketeer with no conscience and Temple Drake, beautiful, bored ...
and vulnerable, to Harace Benbow, a lawyer of honor and decency wishing for more in his life, and Gowan Stevens, college student with a weakness for drink, Faulkner writes of changing social values and order. A sinister cast peppered with social outcasts and perverts perform abduction, murder, and mayhem in this harsh and brutal story of sensational and motiveless evil.
Students of Faulkner have found an allegorical interpretation of "Sanctuary" as a comment on the degradation of old South's social order by progressive modernism and materialistic exploitation. Popeye and his co-horts represent this hurling change that is corrupting the historic traditions of the South, symbolized by Horace Stevens, which are no longer able to protect the victimized Negro and poor white trash due to middle-class apathy and inbred violence.