Wise Blood

Wise Blood Summary and Analysis of Chapters 7-8


Chapter 7

The next afternoon as Hazel is driving on the highway, he is surprised by Sabbath Hawks, the preacher's daughter, who had been hiding in the back. Her attempts at flirting with him are all met with coldness until she mentions that she is a bastard, a fact that elicits Hazel's interest and makes him ask about her father's personal history. He can't understand how a preacher would come to have a bastard daughter.

At Sabbath's suggestion, Hazel pulls off onto a dirt road where he parks the car. The two sit by a tree, as Sabbath continues trying to flirt with Hazel and Hazel wonders whether she has a place in his church without Christ. When they both lie on the ground, Hazel places his hat over his face; playfully, Sabbath lifts it up and looks down into his eyes, distressing Hazel and making him rush back to the car, which has stalled. He and Sabbath go to a nearby gas station to get help. A one-armed man comes with them, inspects the car, and then helps push it back on the road. The Essex starts up, and Hazel boasts of how good the car is.

Chapter 8

After showing Hazel Motes the mummy in the museum, Enoch Emery senses in his blood that something important has begun. He finds himself directed by his blood to change his habits, doing such abnormal things as saving money and cleaning his room. The following Monday, he wakes up sensing that something critical will happen, and even though he does not wish to follow his blood, he is nonetheless compelled to leave the house to go to work and then afterwards to town. There he finds himself as though flung into a movie theater, where he becomes utterly disoriented watching three movies. The third movie features a gorilla named Lonnie, played by an animal named Gonga.

After stumbling out, he finds Hazel preaching his Church without Christ from the top of his car and asking the crowd to show him a "new jesus."


Hazel's afternoon with Sabbath forces him to confront a great many difficult points in the beliefs that make up his Church Without Christ. She poses the question of whether a bastard can be saved in his church. He answers, "There's no such things as a bastard in the Church Without Christ…Everything is all one. A bastard wouldn't be any different from anybody else" (120). We might remember his oft-repeated idea that sin is original to all people so that, for example, a whoremonger is no more sinful than any other person; all are equally clean, and therefore equally sinful and damned. The way that Maude at the hot dog stand abruptly switches from saying that Hazel is clean to saying that he is dirty demonstrates how the two are in fact one, as opposed to usual Christian belief.

In this scene, Hazel himself begins to realize the difficult ambiguity around such moral opposites: "something in his mind was already contradicting him and saying that a bastard couldn't, that there was only one truth - that Jesus was a liar - and that her case was hopeless" (120). The uncertainty of his truth bubbles up inside him, and he tries to push these thoughts from his mind, as Sabbath attempts to seduce him. But this question of original sin is a painful reminder of the type of redemption that Hazel tries to run from, one that will ultimately direct him towards blinding himself and a higher religious truth; in fact, we may say that his truth, simply a denial of Christ, is an anti-truth, not in the sense of being a falsity but of opposing a truth that has become commonplace and thereby lost its meaningfulness.

Despite Hazel's supposed intention to seduce Sabbath, he keeps himself almost comically physically distant from her. Sabbath, on the other hand, flirts with experience. "Haze moved a few feet away and lay down. He put his hat over his face and folded his arms across his chest. She lifted herself up on her hands and knees and crawled over to him and gazed at the top of his hat. Then she lifted it off like a lid and peered into his eyes. They stared straight upward" (121). In this particular action, we see that Hazel's power of sight, or in other words, his religious intuition, never rests, even when he tries to blot out the distractions around him. Although she looks into his eyes, "He trained his eyes into her neck. Gradually she lowered her head until the tips of their noses almost touched but still he didn't look at her" (121). Of course, Hazel has had no experience looking into another person's eyes, certainly not with Leora Watts, with whom he always sleeps in the dark. It is Sabbath's saying "I see you" that finally disturbs Hazel, making him react as he did when he saw the reflection on the museum's glass case of the face of the woman from the pool (121).

Even though Enoch's wise blood works in powerful yet exceedingly vague ways, it often gives him very specific impressions. In a previous chapter, it identified the park as the heart of the city, and in this chapter it makes him focus on the cabinet in his room, attaching religious importance to it: "As far as Enoch was concerned, this piece had always been the center of the room and the one that most connected him with what he didn't know. More than once after a big supper, he had dreamed of unlocking the cabinet and getting in it and then proceeding to certain rites and mysteries that he had a very vague idea about in the morning" (132). As we know, Enoch will in fact perform such parodic sacraments within this parody of a tabernacle; and as someone who operates entirely within this parodic world, such actions will eventually connect him with his parodic God when he dons the Gonga suit. After cleaning the cabinet he buys gilt and paints the inside of the cabinet with it: "Then he realized that the cabinet was to be used FOR something" (134). The way that the causes are always only presented after Enoch's actions let the reader follow along the bizarre process of thought that comes with wise blood.

The morning that Enoch realizes he must steal the mummy, his wise blood imposes upon him strongly, and perhaps for the first time, Enoch resists it: "When he realized that today was the day, he decided not to get up. He didn't want to justify his daddy's blood, he didn't want to be always having to do something that something else wanted him to do, that he didn't know what it was and that was always dangerous" (135). This is a rare moment of self-awareness for the boy who usually acts compulsively, going along with "his daddy's blood," as though he were just listening to his father himself rather than following some innate, inscrutable drive. With the Christian perspective of the book in mind, we might see this as a parody of Jesus in Gethsemane, praying for God the Father to take away the cup of suffering, in other words, his having to be crucified, from him. But just as Jesus acknowledges that God's will be done, so will Enoch's wise blood: "Naturally, his blood was not going to put up with any attitude like this" (135). This comical line reveals that Enoch is powerless to the odd ticking of his blood.

Enoch follows upon this parody of Christ as he is tortured in the movie theater by what are normal movies but which inner horror he is able to sense. This experience makes him pass out and then come even closer to his blood: "His resignation was perfect. He leaned against the wall for about twenty minutes and then he got up and began to walk down the street as if he were led by a silent melody or by one of those whistles that only dogs hear" (139). We should remember that it was the preacher-like potato peeler seller who was described as being able to speak to people on the street as though on a special wavelength; and so it is only fitting that this "silent melody" or "whistle" should lead Enoch to Hazel in the middle of his preaching.