Wise Blood

Wise Blood Summary and Analysis of Chapters 5-6


Chapter 5

Enoch Emery wakes up knowing by his "wise blood" that the person whom he has been waiting for to show his "mystery" to will come. After finishing his afternoon shift at the City Forest Park, he goes to the pool, where he hides in a bush to spy on the women in bathing suits, as is his habit.

Hazel Motes arrives in the car he just bought, and after a woman takes off part of her swimsuit in front of Hazel, making him run back to his car, Enoch spots him. Hazel has come to ask Enoch for the Hawkses' address, but Enoch asks him to first see his mysterious thing in exchange for the information.

Hazel follows Enoch along to the Frosty Bottle hot dog stand, where they encounter Maude, a young woman whom Enoch often pesters, and then pass through the zoo before arriving at the museum in the center of the park. Enoch shows Hazel a shrunken, mummified man in a glass case. Hazel stares at it, his face reflected in the glass. The woman from the pool enters the museum with her two children and they walk up to the exhibit. Hazel is startled when he sees her face in the glass case, and makes a weird noise. Enoch is convinced the noise has come from the man inside the case.

Hazel rushes out of the museum, and demands the address from Enoch. Upon finding out that Enoch does not in fact know the Hawks' address, he throws a rock at him and leaves.

Chapter 6

Hazel drives around town in search of the preacher and his daughter. When he finds them, he follows them in his car and notes their address before driving to a movie theater. There he stands atop his car and preaches at the moviegoers of his new Church without Christ, a routine that he repeats at three other theaters. However, he is dismissed by most people, and at night he goes back to Mrs. Leora Watts. While he is sleeping, Mrs. Watts vandalizes his hat, making Hazel decide that he has had enough of her and would rather try to seduce Hawks' daughter.

To this end he takes a room in the boarding house the Hawkses reside in and pays them a visit. Unexpectedly rebuffed, he leaves and buys a new white hat to replace the damaged one. Meanwhile Sabbath Lily tells Asa Hawks that she wants his help to seduce Hazel. So, when Hazel returns in the afternoon they are kinder to him. Asa tells Hazel he can't save him, but that he can save himself by repenting. Hazel assures him he's already saved himself, albeit without repenting; this is what he preaches in the Church Without Christ.

Asa Hawks shows Hazel a newspaper clipping: EVANGELIST PROMISES TO BLIND SELF. Asa claimed he would publicly blind himself with lime (lye) during a revival as proof of his faith. Deeply affected, Hazel leaves, but not before slipping Sabbath a short love letter, in which she takes great satisfaction. Asa complains that Hazel took his clipping, to which Sabbath Lily responds, "Well, you got another clipping, ain't you?" She's referring to: EVANGELIST'S NERVE FAILS. It turns out that Asa Hawks is not in fact blind, as he lost his resolve before the attempt. Though his face is scarred, he did not get any lime in his eyes.

Hazel takes his car to a garage to fix its various problems. The mechanic tells him it can't be done, as the car is a heap of junk. Hazel goes to a second mechanic, who assures him he is the best man for the job, working in the best-equipped garage. He promises to fix the car overnight, and Hazel is certain his Essex is in "honest hands" (111).


Chapter 5 begins on the same morning and in a strikingly similar way to Chapter 4, drawing an explicit parallel between Hazel and Enoch: "That morning Enoch Emery knew when he woke up that today the person he could show it to was going to come. He knew by his blood. He has wise blood like his daddy" (73). Enoch's certainty mirrors Hazel's sudden conviction to buy a car. The vagueness of the description (We might ask, who is "the person," and what is "it"?) is revealing of Enoch's mind - highly vague, yet intensely driven. If O'Connor had written specifically that Enoch wanted to show Hazel the mummy, it would not only clash with the way that Enoch usually thinks, without plans and specific intentions, but also minimize the tension of the scene. Like Enoch, the reader is also sensing something coming without knowing what it is.

The passage in which Enoch considers the mummy is highly descriptive of not only him but the whole religiously-charged universe that comprises the novel:

"It was a mystery, although it was right there in a glass case for everybody to see and there was a typewritten card over it telling all about it. But there was something the card couldn't say and what it couldn't say was inside him, a terrible knowledge without any words to it, a terrible knowledge like a big nerve growing inside him" (77).

In this world, there are only "facts," as Hazel is so fond of thinking, rather than any God who lives in the sky; everything is visible and describable by people with clear eyes like Hazel's. However, by their factual clarity, these eyes miss what the silly and deranged, such as Enoch, are able to sense. This knowledge is not merely a sensitivity to what is without but also to what is within; for Enoch, sensing something about the city with his wise blood is simultaneously an awareness of his wise blood itself. That this "terrible knowledge" is "growing inside him" will indeed later mean reciprocally that something is happening outside him, perhaps in Hazel, to whom he seems to be linked in some mystical way.

Though Hazel had already declared himself to be a preacher when he tried to denounce Asa Hawks, here he has his first go at preaching independently. Accordingly, he no longer preaches a lowercase "church" but the capitalized, fully formed idea of the "Church Without Christ." His first sermon articulates his beliefs succinctly:

"I'm member and preacher to that church where the blind don't see and the lame don't walk and what's dead stays that way. Ask me about that church and I'll tell you it's the church that the blood of Jesus don't foul with redemption..Listen, you people, I'm going to take the truth with me wherever I go...I'm going to preach that there was no Fall because there was nothing to fall from and no Redemption because there was no Fall and no Judgment because there wasn't the first two. Nothing matters but that Jesus was a liar" (101).

Unlike other tabernacle ministries of the south, Hazel's church will not claim to heal the disabled or resurrect the dead. Redemption is not something that can be promised by faith. Hazel points out, almost accusingly, the crowd's complacently held belief in a comfortable redemption that allows them to turn away from reality. The truth, says Hazel, cannot be found in the Bible or in the words of more bombastic preachers. He contends that the Fall - man's decent from perfection into sin - never happened, as "there was nothing to fall from." Redemption is one of the key themes of Wise Blood. Hazel is preoccupied with the notion that redemption does not exist, as sin does not exist. However, Hazel can't help but search for redemption later in the novel.

In fact, we should always keep in mind that what Hazel preaches to others he just as much preaches to himself in an attempt to escape the kind of religion, exemplified by the Jesus that chases him from the shadows, that was set upon him by his preacher grandfather. In this regard, combined with his rivalry with Hawks, Hazel is a kind of anti-preacher - and in an era of inauthentic religion, this makes him the only truly religious preacher. Here it would be useful to note that whereas for Hazel, his religious expression comes through words, words broadcast as preaching to crowds, Enoch thinks of his wise blood feelings and words as completely separate, such that he could never be a preacher. Therefore, however much we may identify Enoch with Hazel as a person with painfully keen religious intuition, the ability of speech that the latter holds sets him forever apart in a more privileged position, perhaps one that even draws close to the position of the author herself.

Lastly, the episode with the mechanics that concludes Chapter 6 is a comic scene that illuminates Hazel's the one-sided nature of his faith. Hazel believes his car is high-quality, and is offended when the first mechanic tells him there's nothing he can do to fix the heap of junk. The second mechanic, eager to get his business, confirms Hazel's opinion that the Essex is high-class, and assure him he can fix the car overnight. The mechanic proclaims himself to be the best in the city, and Hazel is relieved knowing his pride and joy is in the most "honest hands." Hazel then acts as a person in thrall with the false preachers who, in his opinion, stump for Jesus according to the preconceived notions of the congregants; they believe in fire and brimstone and magical healing, and are willing to fork over money for sermons. Hazel mixes up honesty for salesmanship, which is something he hopes to dispel with his anti-preaching. But Hazel thinks he only seeks - and speaks - the truth. But perhaps his truth is also just an opinion. This scene points to the hypocrisy of any person who puts themselves into the position of spouting truth.