Graduation Date



In William Faulkner’s Sanctuary and Toni Morrison’s Sula, the female characters encounter life-changing traumas that challenge Southern ideas regarding womanhood. While many scholars examine the similarities between other Faulkner and Morrison texts, such as Absalom, Absalom! and Beloved, they overlook the parallels between heroines Temple Drake and Sula Peace, who reverse racial roles when Temple, an aristocratic white woman, is raped, and Sula, a black woman, is not. According to Mae C. King, from 1891 to 1921, during the time period that Sanctuary and part of Sula are set, “Rape of the black woman was ‘as common as whistling Dixie in the South’” (16). By creating strong female characters, specifically African-American characters, Morrison challenges Faulkner’s and the South’s vision of women as sexual objects for men to violate. It takes sexual assault and a trip through a psychological underworld hell for Temple to find her inner strength, but Sula never loses control of her body. In Sanctuary, Temple suffers from her image as a Southern Belle and sexual violation. Here, Temple descends into her psychological underworld, where half-past-ten-oclock is the only time Temple recognizes. In doing so, Temple surrenders her physical body to men. However, she maintains control over her mental faculties and reemerges as an avenging Southern Belle who wields men as she likes, using her newfound strength she accumulates in her underworld. Conversely, in Sula, from a young age, Sula Peace controls her sexuality, and her sexual acts fortify her. These physical relationships last fleetingly, though. She foregoes emotional attachments due to the childhood trauma she experiences when she accidentally kills Chicken Little and when her mother denies loving her. Nevertheless, no matter what she experiences, Sula defines herself. Temple and Sula undergo emotional and physical deaths, but they resurrect as new women who reign supreme.