Flannery O’Connor once noted that all good stories are ones of conversion (Wood, 217), and Wise Blood is no exception. The central spiritual struggle of the book is that of the character Hazel Motes. The protagonist goes through not simply one but several conversions throughout the book. His spiritual quest is his realization of the Church Without Jesus, and his search for a new jesus. As analysis in this paper will elucidate, Hazel spiritual arc is a critique of approaches to knowing God. The first such method, nihilism, is a belief in nothing. This exists not only as a rejection of belief in an areligious sense, but is an active love of the concept of nothing itself. The second method comes in the debate of how one can come to know God, and whether or not one can accumulate concrete knowledge as a method of understanding the divine. O’Connor, as a Catholic, creates the window of an outsider to view the Protestant dominated South. From a Catholic perspective, Hazel Motes’s quest for an alternative approach to God is one which mirrors the alternative approach to God by the predominantly Protestant South. Hazel’s rejection of his paternal influences is not one which rejects religion or God, but instead is one which seeks his own path towards God based on his terms and conditions, and not His. Hazel’s spiritual trajectory is one which pursues a path of nihilism, to Gnosticism, to despair. His understanding of his own perception, especially sight, leads him to search for Jesus through both sight and non-sight, as he seeks a knowable, corporeal new jesus.
The reader is introduced to Hazel’s spiritual past early in the novel, through the description of his preacher grandfather. He was “a waspish old man who had ridden over three coun...
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...t to be distracted by abstract version of Christ, but instead wishes to find God through his own experience. He does not place faith in a Church With Christ, which commands redemption from on high. The Jesus of this church offers an abstract salvation that comes through the suffering of an unknowable God. Instead the redemption Hazel seeks that comes through a grotesque corporeal mutilation creating suffering in the self, so that one can spiritually move towards a knowable new jesus. In this sense, his grace and redemption come through his suffering. He has no eyes, but he sees, and he does not use his ears to listen to others, though he still hears.
O’Conner, Flannery. Wise Blood. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1962. Print.
Wood, Ralph C. Flannery in the Christ Haunted South. Cambridge: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. Print.