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Reflection on Issues in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 30th, 2019

How the character’s behavior motivated by the drive. How does the drive manifest, and how is it addressed by the character?

The characters depicted by Flannery O’Connor in Wise Blood and their actions are affected by some inner drives which can be correlated with the power of faith or natural instincts. Enoch Emery is one of the main characters of the book who can be discussed as the opponent to the main protagonist Hazel Motes because of the drives which direct their lives. Thus, Enoch Emery’ behaviour is based on such inner drives as ‘wise blood’ and the extreme desire to overcome the feeling of loneliness when Hazel’s drives depend on the issue of faith.

Enoch’s ‘wise blood’ always tells him what to do, and he acts according to his ‘wise blood’ because it makes him be unique. Enoch states that he is one who has such a power, “You act like you think you got wiser blood than anybody else, but you ain’t! I’m the one has it. Not you. Me” (O’Connor 55).

In fact, Enoch’s ‘wise blood’ is the instinct based on fears which makes him hate his work in the zoo and abuse animals because their life conditions are better than Enoch’s ones. The source of this drive is Enoch’s personal misery, and the result is the abuse of animals which are weaker.

The next drive is also based on fears, and the main fear is the fear of loneliness. This Enoch’s drive has the source in the personal life background, and now Enoch tries to draw Hazel’s attention to his personality in order to become friends. This drive makes Enoch seek for friends and compassion everywhere.

If Enoch’s desires and drives are not satisfied, he becomes rather aggressive. Thus, these drives make Enoch do a lot of strange things as, for instance, stealing of the mummy, which are justified with references to the ‘wise blood’, but they depend on fears.

Compare and contrast two of the novel’s characters

The characters of Wise Blood have rather different relationships with religion and the questions of belief. To understand the role of religion in the novel, it is necessary to concentrate on such characters as Hazel Motes and Enoch Emery. Thus, Hazel Motes experiences the crisis of faith which leads him to preaching a new religion without Christ when Enoch Emery finds Christ everywhere and states that his faith is in his ‘wise blood’ which makes him act in a proper way.

Hazel’s way to Christ is long and complicated. Before becoming a soldier, Hazel intended to connect his life with religion. Nevertheless, Hazel’s religious principles changed, and he began to proclaim the idea of the “Church Without Christ”, stating that blasphemy is the only way to speak about Christ (O’Connor 56).

From this point, the “Church Without Christ” is based on blasphemy and illicit activities against Christ’s word. In spite of the provocative character of the church, people are inclined to follow Hazel or imitate him. That is why, Hazel’s blinding himself can support his intention to find the true faith in spite of all his rejections of Christ and his religion.

Enoch Emery follows another path in relation to faith, focusing on his ‘wise blood’ which is perceived as the inner truth. Nevertheless, his desire to follow Hazel is so large that Enoch is ready to find a new Christ in the form of the mummy in order to meet Hazel’s expectations. Enoch and Hazel’s differences are in the fact that Enoch tries to find his inner force which can be even ‘sacred’, but he follows Hazel instead, when Hazel is inclined to denounce Christ, but he is perceived as the real preacher instead.

Why you think the author felt it was important to include the statement in her preface

To believe in Christ, it is important to pay attention to the concepts of life and death. These two concepts are discussed in Wise Blood in detail. Thus, the life with Christ and without Christ in hearts is described, and the life as the path to the death is presented. It is possible to state that in her preface to the second edition of Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor speaks about the necessity to discuss the belief in Christ fully, with references to life and death which should not become a ‘stumbling block’ for readers.

Thus, the novel deals with the questions of the belief in Christ from two perspectives when it possible to justify this belief and to reject the principles of faith. That is why, the belief in Christ should be also discussed from the point of its association with the human life as well with the death because it is the natural consequence of the life.

Moreover, O’Connor’s novel includes a lot of symbols of death which are depicted in their connection with declaring life. Thus, soulless mummies can be perceived as the grotesque symbols of life which are used to accentuate the dependence of life and death on each other and their connection with faith (O’Connor 104).

Readers are often not ready to be challenged with controversial discussions of the belief in Christ and matters of life and death, and O’Connor’s purpose is to prepare them to the possible results of such discussions with references to the novel.

In Wise Blood, the author offers two “doubles” to the main character Haze. Pick one of his doubles (Sabbath Lily Hawks or the True Prophet) and explain their similarities and differences

The particular features of Hazel’s character can be discussed depending on many doubles whom he meets during his life. These doubles reflect Hazel’s attitude to the life and faith. Sabbath Lily Hawks is a fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of the preacher who is not afraid of acting against the will of Christ because she can follow the only way which is to the hell. From this point, the position of Sabbath Lily Hawks is close to Hazel’s position because this young man rejects any beliefs due to the absence of the real influence of the faith and fears of making sin on the people’s life.

In fact, both Hazel and Sabbath Lily Hawks try to escape from their religious fears with the help of rejecting them, and the young man and girl do not want to be good because of some religious ideas. Thus, it is possible to state that Hazel tries to cope with his fear of the figure who moves from tree to tree in Hazel’s mind. Sabbath Lily Hawks is afraid of her future because she is aware of the aspects of her past.

Sabbath Lily also focuses on her resemblance with Hazel because she “had never known anyone who looked like him before, but there was something in him of everyone she had ever known, as if they had all been rolled into one person and killed and shrunk and dried” (O’Connor 185). From this perspective, Sabbath Lily Hawks and Hazel’s desires to seduce each other can be discussed as their rejections to follow the prescribed religious norms and justify their own ideas on the nature of faith and Christ.

Works Cited

O’Connor, Flannery. Wise Blood. USA: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Reflection on Issues in Flannery O'Connor’s Wise Blood." June 30, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/reflection-on-issues-in-flannery-oconnors-wise-blood/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Reflection on Issues in Flannery O'Connor’s Wise Blood'. 30 June.

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