Wise Blood.

Essay by danab August 2003

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Wise Blood (!952) is a novel by Flannery O'Connor. It is the story of Hazel Motes, a 22-year-old man who returns home to Tennessee after four years' service in the army. Hazel had grown up in the town of Eastrod, but his parents and family are all dead. Hazel's grandfather had been a preacher.

Before Hazel had joined the army, he had intended to become a preacher. Now, he is trying to avoid Jesus, whom he sees as a ragged figure moving from tree to tree in the back of his mind.

Hazel travels to the town of Taulkinham. He meets an 18-year-old boy named Enoch Emery who tries to become his friend, but Hazel rejects him. Hazel is attracted to a blind preacher named Asa Hawks, and to the preacher's daughter, Sabbath Lily Hawks. Hawks tells him that he cannot run away from Jesus, but Hazel tells the preacher that Jesus does not exist.

Hazel buys a used car from a car lot. He starts to preach on the street, preaching the Church Without Christ. He changes his stiff, black, preacher's hat for a white panama hat.

Hawks's daughter shows Hazel a newspaper from ten years earlier, which says, "EVANGELIST PROMISES TO BLIND SELF," and which explains that Asa Hawks, an evangelist of the Free Church of Christ, had promised to blind himself to justify his belief that Christ Jesus had redeemed him. Sabbath Lily tells Haze that Hawks had blinded himself with lime. But she does not tell Hazel that what really happened was that Hawks had lost his nerve and never blinded himself. Hawks has only pretended to be blind.

Enoch Emery, meanwhile, has felt himself being transformed. He knows that something is going to happen to him, because he has "wise blood." He knows by...