Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Need for Self-Justification in Wise Blood

Reading Flannery O'Connor for the first time is a plethora of emotions.  In "Wise Blood", the horror and grotesque of description and personal actions of the characters is are both repellant and enticing. The continuous themes of justification throughout the book are particularly intriguing to me, both in self inflicted violence in Haze and in the false blinding of the "preacher".  The fleeing from good into what is evil was very perplexing, especially apparent in the supposed "blinding" of Hawks.  His original purpose in blinding himself before the entranced crowd of believers was to "Justify his belief that Christ Jesus had redeemed him." The picture O'Connor paints of this scenario particularly stood out to me, especially in the details of the horrible evangelist.

"Over the headline was a picture of Hawks, a scarless, straight mouthed man of about thirty, with one eye a little smaller and rounder than the other.  The mouth had a look that might have been either holy or calculating, but there was a wildness in the eyes that suggested terror."And then later, "He had been possessed of as many devils as were necessary to do [pour lime in his eyes], but at that instant, they disappeared, and he saw himself standing there as he was.  He fancied Jesus, who had expelled them, was standing there too, beckoning to him, and he had fled out of the tent into the alley and disappeared." (64, 65)

His terror of being stopped by Jesus himself in his supposed "justification" of Christ's sacrifice is poignant, especially when compared to Haze in the end of the book.  Haze attempts to cleanse his evil he has constantly denied throughout the book by actually blinding himself, wrapping barbed wire about his chest, walking on stones, etc.  While the preacher was calculating enough to demonstrate supposed sacrifice for personal gain, Haze himself, who claims throughout the entire book that he is not evil and that there is no truth, is the one who physically attempts to punish himself for his guilt.  His self mutilation is particularly sad when one realizes that in the end, he was aware that there was truth, that there was good, that there was evil, and was aware of his fallen state, yet still rebuked the name of the man who saves even the most calculating and horrible from evil.

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