Wise Blood

Wise Blood Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-12


Chapter 11

On the same day as the events of Chapter 10, Enoch Emery sneaks into the museum and steals the mummified man that he showed to Hazel Motes. He takes it back to his room and puts it in the cabinet he prepared. The next day he carries the mummy, wrapped up in newspaper, intending to give it to Hazel. However, on the way he stops by a movie theater, where his attention is seized by an advertised event where children can shake hands with Gonga, a gorilla that has appeared in many movies.

When Gonga arrives, Enoch becomes terribly nervous and begins to introduce himself to the gorilla as he shakes its hand. However, he is shocked when the gorilla tells him, "You can go to hell" (182); Gonga is no more than a man in a gorilla suit.

In near complete disorientation, Enoch finds his way with the bundled mummy to Hazel's and hands it over to Sabbath, who opens it and comes to claim it as her and Hazel's child. Meanwhile Hazel, who has caught something like consumption (tuberculosis), is trying to throw all his things into his suitcase and run off to another town to preach; when Sabbath comes in with the "baby", he throws it against the wall and tries to leave. However, feeling too sick, he comes back in.

Chapter 12

After the shock of his experience with Gonga and his delivering the mummy to Hazel, Enoch returns to his room and waits, expecting some reward for what he has done. Intending to distinguish himself in some way, he leaves with an umbrella he has converted into a sort of walking stick or stake. When he reads in the newspaper at the diner that Gonga will make one final appearance in the city, he realizes what he must do. Upon making his way to the theater where the meet and greet is being held, he sneaks into the back of Gonga's truck and then beats the man dressed up as the gorilla as the truck drives to another city.

Enoch escapes from the truck, takes off and buries his own clothes, and then gets into the gorilla suit he has stolen. He approaches a young couple with his hand outstretched for a handshake, but scares them off. He sits down and looks over at the view of the city.


Perhaps more than any other chapter, Chapter 11 is full of parodies of biblical stories, beginning with the ridiculous faux-religious experience that Enoch has with the "new jesus" that he has consecrated in his "ark" or "tabernacle" of a cabinet. One line from this passage is particularly telling: "So far as he was now concerned, one jesus was as bad as another" (176). Of course, we have been encountering this oddly lowercase "jesus" standing in for the uppercase, proper noun "Jesus" ever since Hazel started asking for a "new jesus," and now Enoch takes the idea to its logical conclusion: namely, that there is not one Jesus but many jesuses, which are plain objects of curiosity, almost like the commercial products that the city is so full of.

However, Enoch still has a special sense of mission with this very un-special jesus, and so he delivers it with great haste and importance to Sabbath to give to Hazel, acting as a sort of angel Gabriel to Mary. The clearest biblical parallel is drawn, of course, when Sabbath adopts the child as her and Hazel's own, though she asks at first whose child it is, a parody of Mary's immaculate, that is virgin, conception. It is all the more a distortion because as Sabbath tells Enoch, she and Hazel have just spent the night making love. Now, if Sabbath is Mary, that would make Hazel Joseph; and just like Joseph, Hazel wakes up with an idea to go somewhere. However, it is not that he must stay with his "wife" and escape with her to Egypt as in the Bible, but that he must escape her.

The whole sequence that begins with Hazel's waking up is one of the most psychologically intense in the whole novel, including two details that recall elements from much earlier in the book. The first is the Bible and his mother's glasses that have been sitting at the bottom of Hazel's duffel bag, his only remaining possessions from his former life, and the second is the door that may have been a fire escape, a seemingly throwaway detail that is brought back up this one time for Hazel to throw away the mummy baby. Every detail in O'Connor's novel is intentional, each serving a psychological purpose, like the description of Enoch's blood, or a simple object, like the Bible and glasses that stand in for home for Hazel.

Enoch does not witness the destruction of his "new jesus", so he returns home and waits for his reward. Finally, he decides he cannot wait for a miracle, and his desire to have his hand shaken - and be accepted - by the city folk takes hold. A process of transformation begins when Enoch enters Gonga's van in order to steal his costume, and the way that O'Connor narrates it is perfectly suited to the action. We see Enoch disappear into the van: "Enoch suddenly darted across the street and slipped noiselessly into the open back door of the truck" (197). However, thereafter the description is impersonal, as though the narrator cannot see what is going on, though it is quite obvious what is going on: "There came from the van certain thumping sounds, not those of a normal gorilla…a figure slipped from the door and almost fell, and then limped hurriedly off toward the woods" (197-8). This figure is simply described as "he," though we know him to be Enoch; however, this is described, once again, from a point of view outside of Enoch, as though in a movie: "The darkness of the pine grove was broken by paler moonlit spots that moved over him now and again and showed him to be Enoch" (198). We do get back into Enoch's head for a few sentences, but once he dons the gorilla suit, he becomes the gorilla - O'Connor calls him a gorilla. Simply thinking of how this passage would sound if Enoch were always referred to by his own name, and if we saw the action from his eyes (e.g. beating up the actor playing Gonga, his thoughts while donning the suit), we should be able to appreciate the dramatic effect that O'Connor has created by relying mostly on actions to convey what is in fact one of the most emotional scenes of the novel.

It is a detail that might easily be missed, but earlier when describing Enoch's "ambition," O'Connor portrays it as a desire to shake people's hands; this is why Enoch's failed handshake - his first and only handshake - in the previous chapter affects him so. It is almost like Hazel sleeping with Leora Watts or Sabbath, an act of intimacy which instead only alienates. However, Enoch hopes that by taking on a famous figure's person, even if that figure is an animal, he may be able to do the handshake right. And so, we observe the strange motions of Enoch trying out his gorilla personality, making at first very typically animalistic displays but then becoming Gonga - that is, the man with the poisonous growl inside a gorilla suit who nevertheless is the center of everyone's attention and respect: "The figure extended its hand, clutched nothing, and shook. It repeated this four or five times" (199). Having accustomed himself to the motion, Enoch sets about looking for someone to actually shake hands with, but only ends up driving away the couple; that he settles into the melancholy, alienating view that they were looking at shows him at his "perfect resignation" again.