Drunk and Disorderly: Alcoholism in William Faulkner's Sanctuary

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2014


The dramatic events in William Faulkner's Sanctuary a region under the siege of corruption, as pervasive violence precludes any hope of orderly reconciliation between entrenched power and those subject to it. The world of novel has been described as a "wasteland" (Blotner 269) whose moral, social, and political decay rots everything from church to brothel. Situating this wasteland in a specific context, Francois Pitavy remarks, "prohibition so saturates the narrative that it comes to inform it -- to control its very writing. From subject matter, prohibition becomes a governing concept ordering the narrative -- at once what is told and what must remain untold" (47). Lost in the novel's sensational violence is the fact that Sanctuary, as Pitavy claims, is very much about Prohibition. The circumstances informing the central plot rely on outward signifiers of Prohibition, placing the novel as one set in and responding to the milieu propagated by the Eighteenth Amendment (also known as the Volstead Act).