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Written by Timothy Sexton
Don’t let the name fool you; Hazel Motes is male. Hazel is, in fact, a 22-year-old young man who has set himself upon a spiritual quest that inevitably leads him through a labyrinth of false prophets and phony sales pitches that sometimes seem almost hellbent on a providing Hazel with a nearly-Satanic series of opportunities to get off track as he seeks spiritual redemption.
Let the name fool you: this Enoch is not particularly Biblical at all. About those false prophets around which Hazel Motes must make his way in order to arrive at spiritual redemption….Enoch Emery is one of them. One of the more memorable, to be sure, but a spiritual obstruction all the same. Enoch is also of particular note as he provides guidance toward understanding the novel’s title. Enoch works as an attendant at a zoo, is an evangelist on the subject of “wise blood” and—get this—worships the mummified remains of a man. Lots of metaphorical allusions to be found in that aspect of this guy’s character.
On his spiritual journey, Hazel Motes next comes up against the false prophet named Asa Hawks. Asa is a preacher who never stays in one place for too long and has quite a story to tell his equally itinerant parishioners: his own path to what Hank Williams, Sr. sang as seeing the light of redemption and salvation involved a slight nod to Oedipus. Asa claims his vision into redemption is the result of blinding himself.
Sabbath Lily Hawks
Not Asa’s wife, but his daughter. A great many of the characters with whom Hazel comes into contact are utterly aware of their current state of damnation; Sabbath Lily is drawn to contrast strongly with those by being utterly aware of her own damnation. What makes her particularly fascinating is that Lily simply does not give a rat’s…behind…that she is the princess of the damned. As proof, she adopts Enoch's mummified object of worship.
There is a 1938 movie titled Religious Racketeers in which the false prophet known variously as Hoover Shoats and Onnie Jay Holy would feel right at home. Although the racket involved in that particular movie involved phony psychics, the thrust is the same: faking appearances to bring in the cash from the true believers. The racket in which Shoats plies his trade involves hiring Solace Layfield to fake the appearance of Hazel for the purpose of driving in the true believers to the delightfully satirically named Church of Christ without Christ.
Solace reveals the inherent danger of celebrity lookalikes; the danger not just to the celebrity, but to anyone who looks to celebrities for guidance of any sort. Those incapable of telling apart the real from the replica are as doomed as the celebrity whose life becomes currency beyond his control. Solace looks enough like Hazel for Hoover Shoats to employ him the True Prophet who unfortunately for the believers is delivering a false message.
Mrs. Flood is Hazel’s landlady in the big city. A landlady is the person who owns the place where you live, remember. As such, as a metaphor, Mrs. Flood is in charge not just of the building that Hazel calls home, but the world in which he inhabits. Those who own enact a disproportionate amount of control over those just renting space and, metaphorically, this becomes almost impossibly true as it relates to the relationship between Mrs. Flood and Hazel Motes.
Mrs. Leora Watts
What is a book about religion and false prophets without a prostitute? Mrs. Leora Watts is the requite woman of easy virtue in Wise Blood, but in this case the introduction of a woman willing to accept cash in return for having sex plays out as something far more complex than being the machinery of entrapment. In fact, Mrs. Leora Watts is more of a symbol of redemption and the machinery of coming to clarity and understanding for Hazel Motes than she is anything else.
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