Traditionally, Faulkner’s Sanctuary has been classified as a sordid tale of sexual intrigue, set against a backdrop of death and decay in a post-war Deep South. The novel’s foothold in the Southern Gothic realm of literature has been further cemented by its graphic depictions of rape, prostitution and murder. Though these outrageous plot developments set the stage for much of the action in the story, they do little to explain an important role that is traditionally much overlooked – that of the character Popeye. Faulkner’s Popeye symbolizes the insertion of an unwanted Northern modernity into a world of slow Southern decline. His characterization is accompanied by attributes that earmark him as the indicator of a brazen new social order. By presenting industrial progress against that of a traditionally archaic South, implementing the “Gray Man” (an industrial, robotic character) as evidence of otherness within a machine-like social construct, and by illuminating the problems inherent within this type of abrupt cultural shift, William Faulkner sets Popeye up as the catalyst for eventual southern modernity in Sanctuary.
Arnett, Kristen N.
"Modern Man: Popeye as an Indicator of Movement Toward an Industrialized South in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary,"
Rollins Undergraduate Research Journal: Vol. 5
, Article 1.
Available at: https://scholarship.rollins.edu/rurj/vol5/iss2/1