An Example of Southern Literature and Imagery: Flannery O’Connor’s "Wise Blood"

An Example of Southern Literature and Imagery: Flannery O’Connor’s "Wise Blood"

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There are many widely recognized characteristics that are apart of Southern literature that are present in Flannery O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood. Among the most familiar characteristics of Southern literature is a writing style that is based upon imagery. Another common characteristic which can be drawn from Southern literature is the struggle to understand the difference between what is real human experience as opposed to what is believed to be real, as well as the human/God relationship. Flannery O’Connor’s use of consistent imagery reinforces one of the major themes of Wise Blood – that man seems to only scratch the surface of things, and not see deeper into them.
The novel begins as Hazel Motes, the novels key character, is aboard a train searching to find some sort of truth. While on Board the train, Hazel is “looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car” (9). This is the first time that eye imagery is brought into play, as not only characters’ eyes are an important feature of the novel but also what they are looking at. In fact the first five paragraphs are filled with a plethora of references to eyes. “Haze looked at her a second,” then, “stared down the length of the car again” (9). Mrs. Wally Bee Hitchcock “turned to see what was back there but all she saw was a child peering around one of the sections and, farther up at the end of the car, the porter opening the closet where the sheets were kept” (9-10). “He didn’t answer her or move his eyes from whatever he was looking at” (10). “But his eyes were what held her attention the longest. Their settings were so deep that they seemed, to her, almost like passages leading somewhere a...


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...that Christ Jesus had redeemed him” (112), and also, as he tells his landlady, Mrs. Flood, “if there’s no bottom in your eyes, they hold more” (222). Mrs. Flood’s residence is where Hazel spends his final days. In an act of possible repentance, Hazel invests in his passionate belief in suffering as he binds himself, puts stones and glass in his shoes, and sleeps with barbed wire around his chest. Wanting to make some quick money, Mrs. Flood plans on asking Hazel to marry her, but ends up developing strong feelings towards him. After informing Hazel of her plans for them to get married, Hazel wanders off for three days until the cops find him on the side of the road barely conscious. Hazel dies while being driven back to Mrs. Flood’s place, where his body is taken back to. It is then that Mrs. Flood decides that Hazel can stay as long as he wants, and for free.

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