Gaze of Others and Gender Representation:
"The Big Shot"/ "Dull Tale" and the revised Sanctuary


    We see Faulkner, for the published version of Sanctuary, makes use of materials and motifs used in several preceding texts. In his notes for Uncollected Stories, Joseph Blotner presumes that one such text, "The Big Shot" had been written sometime earlier than Faulkner's first novel, Flags in the Dust (1927). In "The Big Shot," Popeye, who later becomes a central character of Sanctuary, makes his first appearance as a man working under a gangster boss, Dall Martin. Likewise, Rhenny, the daughter of Martin, is supposed to be an initial form of Sanctuary's Temple Drake. Since January, 1930, this story was successively sent to publishers but failed to be accepted, and then finally was turned into another story called "Dull Tale" after quite a good deal of revision. But the revised story was also rejected in November. On the other hand, Ur-Sanctuary was possibly written at somewhere in the first half of 1929. In the fall of 1930, perhaps one and a half years since it had been written, Faulkner received the galley proof and decided the extensive revision (Blotner 268). In fact, both of the revisions, one for the short story and the other for the novel, were done exactly at the same period.
    In this paper the focus is to be on the treatment of gazes in these four texts--"The Big Shot," "Dull Tale," the original and the published version of Sanctuary--because I would like to assert that all of them more or less treat issues of gender identity, or more precisely, masculine subjectivity based on an exclusion of the feminized other, in relation to the other's gaze. In these texts, a man is represented as a seeing subject, while an object to be seen is described with feminine figurization. But such matters which concern gender representation only refer to the problems of males; the problem is to become a manly man or to degenerate into a feminized man, and real women are purged from the men's eyesight. This is especially obvious in the case of the two short stories; they feature the narcissistic relation to mirror images, into which gazes of others are not allowed to enter.
    However, what is the most striking in both revisions are moments of shifts when the narrative viewpoints move to the inside of the characters whom the author had described from outside in the previous works. This reversal of inside and outside produces equilibrium among multiple perspectives; moreover, it shows the fundamental instability of binary relations such as men and women based upon the logic of inside and outside. To provide an explanation of Popeye's function in terms of his relation to gender representation is the key to an understanding of a situation which allows a reversal of inside and outside. Whereas the two short stories dramatize the interplays of gazes as rather simple binominal relations, the revision of Sanctuary strengthens Popeye's role and transforms the exchange of glances into triangular relationships. This may reflect the recognition that the formation of masculinity does not so much take place only within a narcissistic, imaginary self-relation, as it already comprises socialized elements, external determinations to be able to form a generalized gender representation. Though in the revision of "The Big Shot," Popeye was wiped away from the textual surface-possibly to emphasize the conflict between the two principal characters: Martin and Dr. Blount--the revised Sanctuary does the opposite. For instance, in both Horace Benbow and Temple Drake the narcissistic relation to mirror images appear as the primary motifs, and Popeye is, at the same time, inside and outside the very imaginary circle which a character draws with his/her mirror image; he is able to become anything--male or female, man or animal--in answer to the gaze of a person whom he meets from time to time.
    As a hypothesis, I put these four texts in a straight line of evolution, and regard the published version of Sanctuary as its terminus ad quem. To explore this interpretative line, especially focusing on Popeye's role, the function of gaze will be examined with a view toward clarification of how it works to produce gender representations.

1. Gazes in "The Big Shot" and "Dull Tale": Relations to Imaginary Father/Mother

    It is curious indeed to see in how many ways "The Big Shot" and "Dull Tale" deal with mirror images; for example, the former relates it to the rite of initiation, in which one becomes a man through an effort to identify with an authentic, symbolic father: " . . . he would hide and talk to himself, using boss' gestures and tone to his own shadow on the wall of the barn or the bank of a ditch" (509). Martin, a poor white boy, was one day forced to turn away at the door of the planter's big house, without even being able to pass the message, which he was given by his father, to the planter. The way he chooses to become a man is to exactly imitate the gestures and diction of the planter who has now become a symbolic figure of the Father. In the passage quoted above, Martin gives an order to his own shadow, imitating the vocal characteristics of the planter. At this point, we understand that Martin's behavioral mimicry of the symbolic father--that is someone, or anyone who gives an absolute imperative to his son--alienates and simultaneously enslaves his own shadow, which is the weaker part of him to be overcome by becoming a real man. What this mimicry implicates is that Martin internalizes the father figure as his own superego and the pre-subjective, fragile ego is by repression transformed into an indistinguishable shadow. In addition, this premature part of himself is described by a feminine metaphor: "that female part of every child where ambition lies fecund and waiting" (510). In short, when Martin decides to become a man by identification with the symbolic father, he must repress his inner femininity rendering it as a shadow. Identification with the Father and alienation of feminine half of the self are made at the same time by the use of mediating mirror images.
    The narration of "The Big Shot" centers upon the story of a gangster boss Dal Martin, and lays various supplementary characters and their episodes--his daughter Rhenny, Popeye and Dr. Blount, who was born in a prominent Southern family and holds the annual ball for debutantes--around this principal story. By contrast, "Dull Tale" emphasizes the contrast between Martin and Blount by getting rid of all the other secondary plotlines. But at first, we should notice that both works have several features in common; both of them depict a young boy's traumatic experience in relation to an actual/symbolic father. What is different about the two works is how Blount and Martin react to their traumas respectively. When he is verbally abused by his father young Blount in "Dull Tale" hides in the darkness of a closet which is supposedly a substitute figure of the mother's womb. This is partly because he strives to shelter himself from the other's gaze by shutting out the light with closed doors--the light by which he is going to be exposed to someone else's gaze, the gaze which comes upon him to make him subject to it. This closet is an imagined sanctuary, to which follow other locations--a car and also his office--places that are "the equivalent of the linen closet of his childhood" (532). All these are substitutes for the state of perfect unity that possibly existed when one was in the mother's womb. As we saw in Martin's case, masculine operation of ideas include identification with an other through mirror reflection or a partial alienation of weaker self reflected in a mirror. At the same time, even a man, if he becomes an object to be watched and transfigured into something else under the force of other's gaze, is regarded as feminine: " . . . through the fitted coat he [Blount] had so long since taught himself to feel the impact of eyes . . . that he now carried the impact of them on with him like specks of pepper on a piece of raw fish, until the door of his coop had shut behind him" (530). Nothing but the substitutes of mother's sacred body--in this case, a car--make it possible for Blount to avoid the gaze of the other. Maternal unity in an imaginative world provides him a sanctuary where he does not suffer any pressure from the gaze of the other, except his own.
    The two stories describe the attempts and failures to become a man and the initiation and regression in both cases on Martin and Blount symbolically relate to the figure of the father or mother which is represented as a mirror image generated by an often self-referential interplay of gazes, or a closed door which shut other gazes out. Real women are completely outside of men's representations. In summary, Martin represents an inflated masculinity while Blount rather refers to the unstable basis of the masculinity, the border of masculinity and femininity which is regarded as the outside of masculinity.
    However, what should be noticed here is as follows: in "The Big Shot," Dr. Blount is portrayed only from outside according to the viewpoint of Martin, and that is the partial reason why Blount is described with a feminine metaphor. Martin cannot understand Blount; therefore, for him Blount is an external being which is appropriately represented by a feminine metaphor. But "Dull Tale" sets these two persons in a sharp contrast, one embodies a quite modern form of masculinity whose obligation is to constantly overcome and renew itself, and the other is regarded as feminine because it shows a premature or regressive stage of masculinity. At this point we see the very germ of a juxtaposition of inside and outside, which we will analyze more closely when we look at the evolution of the interplay of gazes into the triangular relation of Sanctuary. Contrary to "The Big Shot," "Dull Tale" starts with the viewpoint of Dr. Blount and to do so, it provides us another perspective on the same substance included in the story: "Seated behind his bare, neat desk, Dr. Blount looked at his caller. He saw a thick, broad man, a little bald, with a gray, impassive face . . . " (527).
    A similar thing happens when Faulkner revises Sanctuary. While the original Sanctuary focuses on Horace Benbow's inner conflicts, mostly following the stream of his consciousness, the published version moves one significant scene--the first encounter of Benbow and Popeye at a spring side-to the very beginning of the book; what this change suggests is that the author shifts the emphasis of the story from Horace's self-consciousness to the drama generated by this contrastive pair. In the spring scene, the author newly inserts a short paragraph of Popeye's viewpoint which did not exist in the original. This creates an effect like a reverse shot of cinematic montage and here the author interchangeably uses different perspectives for presenting one sequence of events. Thus, we understand that the two cases of revision have some common strategies: both of them strike up another gaze which in the previous works was handled as an absolute other, as the outside.

2. A Shift from Binary to Triangular Relation: Narcissism Unstabilized by the Asymmetric Gaze of Others

    Polk states that the change of the book's opening--from a scene before a prison in the original text to Benbow's encounter with Popeye beside the spring in the new version--effectively epitomizes an important shift of the central themes between the two versions, that is, from Benbow's imprisonment within narcissism to his initiation in the evil of society (Polk "Afterwords" Sanctuary: The Original Text). However, Irwin places much value on the new version's multifold symmetry by the use of the mirror (Irwin 205-6); the move of the spring scene to the opening of the book where Horace discovered Popeye's silhouette through his own reflections upon the water exactly corresponds to the final scene where Temple Drake looks into her compact with a completely empty gaze. Irwin relates the mirror solely to narcissism, convinced that all difficulties and conflicts situated around Benbow can be explained in terms of a replaced or transformed desire of narcissism (211-13). Popeye is understood as Horace's double, his mirror image, for the reason that he comes out of Horace's reflections on the surface of the water and the relation of Popeye-Temple parallels that of Horace and his step-daughter Little Belle since both of the men desire their female objects as substitutes for the mother. Irwin says, making use of Lacan's theoretical framework, a love for the mother is also a transmogrified form of self-love, replacement of narcissism, in several of Faulkner's works including Sanctuary. Furthermore, what Popeye did with a corncob to Temple is interpreted as a substitutional act for what Horace secretly wants to do to Little Belle (222). After he hears Temple's confession about how she was raped by Popeye, he vomits; if Popeye's deed is supposed to be a projected form of Horace's forbidden desire that is rooted in narcissism, it is probable that Popeye's perverted expression of unfulfilled desire makes Horace sexually excited and that vomiting becomes an inverse ejaculation (Beikasten 247-48).
    If we deem this kind of analysis is inappropriate, the reductive account of Sanctuary to narcissistic fixation overlooks the critical aspects of the work, we should elucidate further the distinctive feature of Sanctuary compared to the two short stories that we have dealt with here as a paratext of Sanctuary, according to our present attention to the mirror, gaze and closed place.
    Let me call attention to the following passage which appears in "The Big Shot" next to a description of Popeye: "Have you noticed how people whose lives are equivocal, not to say chaotic, are always moved by homely virtues. Go to the brothel or the convict camp if you would hear the songs about sonny boy and about mother" (505). "Equivocal" people are moved by homely virtues; therefore we can expect to see typical familiar emotions of people in the most aberrant things and phenomenon. Conversely, familiar things have in themselves what necessarily leads to a crisis of itself, a possible deviance from the norm. By applying this to the relationships of Horace-Popeye and Temple-Popeye, we understand Popeye plays the role of an intruder for both of them, a sudden disturbance that breaks through their self-confinements--Temple's is her absorption in her own image in the compact--and both of them project their narcissistic desire upon their closest relatives of the other sex, making it an expanded form of self-love. Popeye is a queer being, because he lacks everything that determines an average gender formation in a primal social relation. His father runs away from home before his birth, his mother is mad, and he is physically impotent because of the presumed syphilis of his father. His sexual identity is unstable, biologically and culturally, and therefore it is converted into a metaphor of pure possibilities for becoming. His radical perversion, comprehended as inverted positivity, might be employed to display the usual fear of intellectual and moral subversion. He can be both a man and a woman, in response to the gaze of another person.
    There are two ways to define who Popeye is: the first, as a transcendent seer, the second, as someone who has phallus substitutes. These definitions overlap each other since both of them function as a kind of zero symbol in gender formation which is at once both a signifier for emptiness and an empty signifier. What Gresset emphasizes about the spring scene where Horace and Popeye first met is that Popeye was there from the beginning, even though we readers mistakenly deem him to suddenly appear because our viewpoints gradually adjust to that of Horace's. It is Popeye who dominates the scene's perspective as a primary viewer (194-98). If the spring and his own reflections on the water represent the imaginary world of Horace's narcissism, Popeye's previously unnoticed existence suggests realms of imagination, Lacan's le imaginaire, necessarily presupposes a transcendent signifier that is a source of all signification. In this case, Popeye is always, already inside, throwing out a principal glance to anyone from inside.
    Horace discovered Popeye's image on the water, instead of his own, immediately after his reflections disintegrated into myriad fragments while he was drinking water from the spring. Temple always carries a small compact by which she confirms whether she looks right or not whenever she feels anxiety. She is obedient to the gazes of others and the compact is an important tool for her to see herself assuming another's gaze. Thus Temple is confined in a self-referential relation of the mirror like Horace, and Popeye's role, which relates to the narcissistic self-relation of each--Horace and Temple--is also similar in both cases because we can point out that the same structure of interplaying gazes, which forms a keynote in the spring scene, also dominates in Temple's case. Narcissistic self-relation is suddenly broken by Popeye's intrusion and it happens when the surface of the mirror, on which she expected to see her own familiar image, becomes too diffuse to reflect something: "She watched the clock face, but although she could see a warped turmoil of faint light and shadow in geometric miniature swinging across it, she could not see herself" (152-153). Two hours of silence with calm self-reflection ("For two hours she had lain undisturbed, listening" (157)) is exactly same as the confrontation of Horace and Popeye at the spring. As seen in the following passage, many details are supposed to be correspondent with that of the spring scene; both Temple and Horace find that Popeye is already there when they take notice of something:

She could distinguish voices now from below stairs. She had been hearing them for some time, lying in the room's musty isolation. Later a mechanical piano began to play. Now and then she heard automobile brakes in the street beneath the window; once two voices quarrelling bitterly came up . . . . She just happened to look toward it after how long she did not know, and saw Popeye standing there, his hat slanted across his face. (157-58)
Also, at this time Temple recollects one story which is deftly employed to suggest the function of the third term within the genesis of sexuality: "The worst one of all said boys thought all girls were ugly except when they were dressed. She said the Snake had been seeing Eve for several days and never noticed her until Adam made her put on a fig leaf." (152). "The worst one" (means the ugliest one) said this against other girls who garrulously chat when they are dressing, insisting that it is better to go out without dressing because men will be more glad to see them naked than with a beautiful dress. While the other girls perceive their bodies as the direct object of men's sexual desire, this girl argues that Eve could be an object to be desired for someone only when Adam tries to hide Eve's naked body with a fig leaf and one is looking at the Adam's behavior. It is not the female body itself but another man's operation upon the female body that creates male sexuality in general; men learn what and how they desire by assimilating their yearning gazes to other masculine subjects' desiring gazes. Sexuality is more related to gender as a cultural construction than to sex grasped in a biological sense. The following remark emphasizes the preexistence of the Snake: " . . . she said because the Snake was there before Adam, because he was the first one thrown out of heaven; he was there all the time". Nevertheless though Eve's sexual attraction seems to urge the Snake to come out, this woman says, the truth is converse, that is, sexuality needs or presupposes the gaze of the Snake, the transcendent gaze of a third person, to let it come out. If we regard the Snake as a phallic substitute according to the general understanding for Christian symbols, it is apparent that the phallus is equated with the transcendent gaze which already exists beforehand. The preexistence of the phallic symbol as a transcendent signifier cannot be dispensed with for Adam and Eve to arise as a man and woman, for the genesis of sexuality.

3. A Reversal of Inside and Outside, a Signifier and a Signified: Popeye as a Queer

    Even in a narcissistic realm of imagination which is sometimes associated with the mother's womb, there lurks the zero signifier, the transcendent gaze, which brings signification upon things to organize them into a symbolic system. This may relate to what Bleikasten says about the instability of inside and outside in Sanctuary, closely examining the uses of doors in the story (Bleikasten 230-33). In the night at Frenchman's Bend, Temple, gnawed by anxiety, asked Tommy to watch at the barn's door and not to let anyone enter the room, but Popeye, as we might have expected, already waits inside the barn and slowly climbs down the ladder toward Temple. Added to this, as we see in the passage which describes Popeye immediately after he shot Tommy, the automatic pistol suggestively works as a phallic substitute, especially for a sexually impotent person like him. But an interesting point is that the pistol as phallic symbol seems the most erotic substance just when Popeye shoots, or penetrates another man by it: "looking at Popeye's tight back and the ridges of his coat across the shoulders as he leaned out the door, the pistol behind him, against his flank, wisping thinly along his leg" (102). The corncob which impotent Popeye uses to rape Temple is the substitute of the substitute (the automatic pistol) and his raping is the further replacement of his perverted assertion of manliness; he becomes a man by penetrating another guy; only by feminizing some other person he can become a man.
    Conversely, it could also be said that Popeye is forced to be a man in relation to Temple, a female. Since he cannot have normal sexual intercourse by himself, he brings one young man named Red to the room where he and Temple are staying and lets them have sex in front of him. At this point, we should recall Rene Girard's triangular model of desire: for Popeye, Red is a tutor from whom he learns how a man deals with a woman as an object of his sexual desire, but the instructor necessarily becomes a competitor for the same desired object if the learner correctly learns how a man desires a woman.1 Popeye as a transcendent seer, a phallic substitute, falls into an object to be determined by someone whom he previously dominates within the symbolic system of signification: "the two of them would be nekkid as two snakes, and Popeye hanging over the foot of the bed without even his hat took off, making a kind of whinnying sound" (258). Red and Temple transform into Snakes and now Popeye is an impotent seer who can do nothing but utter a whinnying voice like an animal, which signifies nothing, just a representation of his unsatisfied desire. "Dont you wish you were Red? Dont you? Dont you wish you could do what he can do? Dont you wish he was the one watching us instead of you?" (232) Indeed, it is Temple Drake who urges Popeye to become a man, lets him produce phallic substitutes and wave them. The means what Popeye discovers for recovering his manliness is to shoot Red between his eyes; penetrating other guy to show his manliness and also erasing the model of masculine desire to move back to the reign of a transcendent seer.
    According to Duvall, "the prostitute will serve primarily as an agent to effect a displaced homoerotic consummation" (57). Also Polchin, opposing Irwin's reductive analysis of Sanctuary which he executes in terms of narcissistic self-love, insists that "Popeye uses Temple Drake to project his own self into a sexual relationship with a man" (156). Homosexuality could be an antithesis to the completion of the Oedipal triangle as long as we suppose, following the recent observation of feminist research, that homophobia is inextricably linked to a wish to strengthen the homosocial bond between men, that a narcissistic relation to a mirror image is an indispensable built-in of a larger symbolic order which is generated through the mediation of phallus as a transcendent signifier. Here I would like to propose a less extreme proposition; Popeye represents an original ambiguity which theoretically precedes the existing social system based on oedipally structured desires; he is a dissident element in a society which the author sets against solid gender relations, which is established to maintain a hierarchical organization of a society. In fact, an episode of Popeye's childhood, that he escapes from his house climbing down a rainpipe, has an echo in "The Appendix" of The Sound and the Fury (1946) in which Quentin W does exactly the same thing. Their escapes can be compared with water leakage because it disturbs a quiet surface of water on which someone forms a self-sufficient relation to a mirror image and this narcissistic relation of self is a necessary basis for oedipully structured family conflict, which then becomes a minimum model of the whole social system founded upon gender distinction.2
    While Horace goes back to a home which he hated ("'Home,' he said. 'I dont care. Just home.'" (292)) and Temple again looks into the compact mirror beside her father Judge Drake rigorously putting his hands on his stick, Popeye cusses at an executioner to fix his disheveled hair in the end of the book. What he can use to see his own mirror image is the executioner's gaze who is going to take him to the journey to death. In summary, the revised Sanctuary emphasizes the dual aspects of Popeye: first, he embodies an initial, transcendent gaze which is theoretically prior to the Lacanian mirror-image phase; second, he is the one who breaks into the narcissistic relation with a mirror image by disturbing the mirror surface. These two phases are prior and after the static structure completed within narcissism for each and Popeye's being vacillates between these poles: he represents the otherness, the absolute difference to such a structure necessitated by social regulation. The outside always, already lurks inside a system and it refers to an ambiguity which can be or cannot be both masculine and feminine. Such a strengthening of Popeye's position is connected to the shift from a simple binary opposition employed in the short story revision to a triangular dramatization which is crafted to analyze the basis of gender formation. This triangular relation is the very foundation of the formation of static structure indeed, but it also comprises within itself a likelihood of bringing destruction to such a structure.


1 Rene Girard provides a famous triangular model for desire. According to him, an individual person desires a certain object because he identifies himself with another subject as a guiding model, who wants the same object prior to him. Sedgwick transforms this model from a feminist viewpoint and paraphrases the object to be desired as a woman, and the subjects who project desires on each other as men. Her own version is called a homosocial triangle in which women are handled only as medium by which men can exchange their own desires. Through this exchange, men disguise their homoerotic desires and direct them to female bodies. To do so, they try to strengthen the bond between themselves.
2 Deleuze-Guatarri's concept "ligne de fuite" designates a passage by which we are led to the outside of an Oedipally structured world. This word has implications like a line of least resistance and a point of leakage. Also it refers to a "'diverging line' . . . the term for the real or imaginary lines which converge on the vanishing-point in a perspective drawing" (Bogue 110).


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Copyright (c)2002 Matsuoka Shinya