Wise Blood

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Wise Blood Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Enoch Emery knows upon waking that today he will show someone his secret—the “wise blood” he inherited from his daddy told him so. That afternoon Enoch complains as usual to the guard relieving him at the zoo, who is always fifteen minutes late. As he does every day, Enoch goes to the park, where first he hides in the bushes by the pool to watch women swimming. He is shocked by what he sees as the shamelessness of the women, who often come to swim with ripped bathing suits. Enoch goes to the whorehouse occasionally, but he is shocked by these displays out in the open, and goes into the bushes out of a sense of propriety.
This is the first chapter where the perspective begins to follow Enoch, and O’Connor provides a glimpse of the mix of instinct and fate (what he calls “wise blood”) that guides his actions. This blood is his inheritance from his father, something beyond his control and that dominates his free will. Enoch is a lonely creature of habit, and in his feelings toward the bathing women display a comic, juvenile mix of prudish shyness and sly desire. He is like an animal in these habits, hiding in the bushes.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
The park is at the heart of the city, and the “knowing” in Enoch’s blood led him there. He is stunned and awed by seeing the city’s heart every day, and especially by the mystery he has discovered at its center. This mystery is on display in a glass case, but Enoch knows its dark and terrible secret. He feels that he must show it to someone, but only someone special, someone he will be shown by his wise blood. He is growing impatient, feeling impulses to steal, rob, or rape mounting in him, but he feels that today that special person will come.
The reverence and awe that Enoch feels toward this mystery at the heart of the city is almost religious in nature. We are kept in the dark as to what the mystery might be, adding to the sense of darkness, confusion, and the grotesque. The animal impulses roiling within Enoch are growing more insistent as the chosen person that his “wise blood” is sending to him approaches. He entirely trusts in fate and in his instincts.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Enoch leaves his post and takes the path to the pool. He sees a woman with two little boys approaching. She is one of the regular visitors to the pool, who wears a stained white bathing suit that fits her “like a sack.” She is one of Enoch’s favorites. He crawls through a dirt tunnel under some abelia bushes, where, red-faced, he peeks out like a devil.
In step with his routine, Enoch heads to the pool. The grotesque figure of the woman arouses Enoch, whose animal nature is on display as he crawls through the dirt under the bushes to leer at the pool. With the devil simile O’Connor stays true to form—religious imagery is never far away.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Enoch thinks of his routine—he never goes immediately to the “dark secret center” of the park. First he goes to the pool, and then to a hotdog stand called The Frosty Bottle, where he harasses the waitress and drinks a chocolate shake. Then he goes to the line of animal cages, which hold a dark fascination for him.
This daily routine carries some significance for Enoch, and serves as a sort of ritual that prepares him for the religious experience of the dark secret. The elements of the routine, though, are trivial, typical of Enoch’s animal nature. As usual he desires connection, but goes about it in an antagonistic way, through insults and harassment.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
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His reverie is interrupted by the sound of the noisy, rat-colored car passing back and forth, looking for something. Enoch cranes to see it, and recognizes Hazel emerging stiffly from the car in his suit and hat. Hazel sits down on the grass. “Well I’ll be dog,” Enoch says, and scrambles out of the bushes, his heart racing. On all fours, he stares across the pool at Hazel, who looks as if he is being held there, expressionless, by some invisible hand. As the woman enters the pool, Hazel’s head slowly turns to watch her swimming. Enoch stealthily sneaks up behind Hazel, sitting on the slope ten feet above him.
This is the first time O’Connor shows us Hazel from Enoch’s perspective. With his beaten-up car and odd hat, and he seems stiff and unwieldy, completely out of place in the park. The dog-like Enoch recognizes that Hazel must be the one chosen by his wise blood, and stalks him like he is hunting prey. Unlike Enoch, Hazel does not hide to watch the woman, suggesting he does not feel the same prudish guilt – but he still seems uncomfortable, as he was around Mrs. Watts.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Hazel and Enoch watch as the woman pulls herself out of the pool, seeing first her “cadaverous” head and sharp teeth, then her large feet and legs as she squats, panting and dripping. She faces them and grins, then moves into a patch of sunlight and removes her bathing cap, revealing short, matted hair. She grins up at Hazel again, who does not respond, and stretches out in the sun. Her two little boys are knocking heads on the other side of the pool. The woman removes the straps of her suit from her shoulder, and Enoch whispers “King Jesus,” as Hazel springs up and heads back to his car. Enoch follows him, shouting.
O’Connor’s description of the woman is purposefully grotesque and animalistic. The woman is pleased to find Hazel and Enoch watching her, and the two of them seem frozen by her actions, until the moment of climax when she removes her straps. The whole event resembles a sort of failed mating ritual. Enoch’s whispered curse keeps the shadow of religion present, as ever, while Hazel flees this woman, who seems to deeply unsettle him.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Hazel sits sourly in his car, tensed as if about to shout. Enoch asks him how he is, and Hazel responds that the guard told him he would find Enoch here, hiding in the bushes. Enoch blushes, but is flattered that Hazel came to see him. Hazel asks him where the blind man, Asa Hawks, lives. Enoch tells him he has something to show him, gripping him, but Hazel only repeats his question. Enoch promises to tell Hazel where they live, but only if he comes to see something, insisting on the trade. Enoch’s blood pounds, anticipating the struggle of getting Hazel through the daily rituals ahead, but he is deadly determined.
Again, from Enoch’s perspective, we can observe just how stiff and full of dark, nervous energy Hazel is. Enoch is happy that he has come, since he is lonely and wants a friend, but Hazel is only concerned with finding out Asa’s address. Enoch, meanwhile, has his own agenda, having decided that Hazel is the one destined to see the mystery at the park’s center. Enoch is totally devoted to the instinct of his blood, and to the ritual that he feels must be followed.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Enoch’s brain is in two parts—the first part, in connection with his blood, does “the figuring” but never says anything, while the second part is full of words and phrases. This part engages Hazel in small talk about the car, or tries to. Hazel is totally unresponsive, as Enoch tells him about a yellow Ford his father once won. They stop at the Frosty Bottle, where a cow dressed as a housewife advertises ice cream.
This division is between the instinctual, animal part of Enoch, and the human façade that spouts small talk without ceasing. He tries to forge some connection with Hazel, who, in typical form, ignores him completely. The image of the housewife-as-cow continues O’Connor’s work to establish the people of this town as animals.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Hazel is impatient as Enoch orders his milkshake from the muscled waitress. Enoch tells her that his friend “ain’t hungry but for just to see you” as Hazel stands woodenly, and she glares at them both. Enoch tells Hazel that he has “changed some.” He begins to suspect that the police are after Hazel, and that is why he is acting strangely—perhaps the car is stolen. He wonders if this is why he fled the pool. When the waitress delivers the milkshake and asks for payment, he jokes that she is worth more than fifteen cents, and then he blows bubbles into the shake.
The awkwardness of Hazel along for the ride with Enoch in his daily routine is darkly comic. O’Connor shows us Enoch’s animal pleasures, the simple life he revels in, and his outsider status. He wants to connect, clearly, to the waitress, but goes about doing so in a hopelessly childish way. Enoch makes up his own story to explain Hazel’s strange behavior, unable to wrap his head around Hazel’s dark seriousness.
Themes
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
The waitress, Maude, walks over to Hazel and asks him why a nice quiet boy like him is spending time with a “son of a bitch” like Enoch. She goes on, telling Hazel that she always knows a clean boy when she sees one, facing Enoch and shouting so he can hear. Hazel tenses further, winding up. Enoch’s blood tells him to hurry, and he slurps the milkshake. Maude continues to tell Hazel that a clean boy like him needs better company. Suddenly Hazel leans over the counter toward the woman and says “I AM clean.” He then tells her blankly that if Jesus existed, he (Hazel) wouldn’t be clean. She is startled, and yells at him, asking why she should give a goddamn what he is.
Maude seems to be talking to Hazel mostly as a means of communicating her disdain to Enoch, but she ends up angering Hazel when she repeats that he is a “clean boy.” By this she seems to be implying that he is pure, good, and religious even, in the way he wants desperately to avoid. He interrupts to explain that he is clean, but not in the way she means – he is clean because everyone is, because the whole idea of being dirty is a lie of religion. Once again, Hazel’s tirade against his religious destiny falls on deaf ears.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
Enoch rushes Hazel out the door and into the car, desperate to get him to the dark secret. Hazel has snapped, and wants to leave, but Enoch insists, shuddering, that he had a sign this morning that he had to show Hazel this thing. Hazel is stubborn, but finally relents and follows Enoch’s directions, still hoping to find out the Hawks’ address. They go to the animals first, Enoch whining desperately as Hazel protests. Enoch shows Hazel the animals, and Enoch spits into the wolf cage, since he has no use for “hyenas.” He forgets Hazel for a moment as he glares down at the wolf. Enoch is convinced the police are coming for Hazel. He hurries through his usual routine, stopping only at the cage of an ape to insult its shamelessly exposed ass.
Hazel bends his will to the force of Enoch’s destiny, still hoping to find Asa’s address. Enoch is almost herding him along at this point, nipping at his heels to keep him on the right path. He is showing Hazel a routine that is very important to Enoch, and which no one else knows about, but Hazel is impatient to get through it. Enoch’s antagonistic relationship with the animals only serves to bring him closer to them in the reader’s eyes – in a way similar to the manner in which Hazel’s blasphemies against Jesus only reveal his attachment to religion.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Enoch hurries on, eager to get to their final destination, but Hazel has stopped by a cage. Enoch yells at him wildly that the cage is empty, but then sees an eye in the corner. It is a mop-like owl with one eye opened, staring at Hazel. Enoch tries to get him to follow, but Hazel addresses the eye, saying “I AM clean,” as he did in the Frosty Bottle. As Enoch hustles him away, Hazel sees the distant figure of the woman with two little boys, and he stops protesting. Enoch is sweaty and tense, on the verge of something he doesn’t understand. They start down a slippery hill, and Hazel shakes off Enoch’s supportive arm. Enoch stops in front of the gray building and pronounces its name for the first time: “Muvseevum,” or MVSEVM. He shivers, afraid to say it again.
Here is another moment where, from Enoch’s perspective, Hazel must seem slightly unhinged. Hazel treats this owl the same way he treated the bird-like women on the train, or Maude in the Frosty Bottle – and in all three cases his self-defense is lost on the listener, since it says more about Hazel’s own deep inner guilt and anger than anything that the people (or animals) watching him are doing. Enoch is still trying to connect with Hazel, in the throes of his semi-religious ritual, as evidenced by the comic seriousness of his mispronunciation of “Museum,” which is like a holy mystery to him.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Hazel and Enoch go up the front stairs and sneak through the front door past the sleeping guard, who is old like a dried-up spider. The dark hall smells of linoleum, creosote, and an unnamable “undersmell.” Enoch looks at Hazel to see if he too smells this third smell. His blood urges him forward, and he leads Hazel stealthily forward into a second hall, and then to a glass case like a coffin, where he stops with his neck thrust out and hands clasped together. Hazel looks and sees a shriveled corpse, three feet long, which Enoch explains was shrunk down by “some A-rabs.” Enoch watches as Hazel stands frozen, staring at the corpse, his eyes empty. Enoch prays to Jesus that whatever is going to happen might happen now, as he hears someone coming.
The humans of Taulkinham continue to be compared to animals in O’Connor’s descriptions. The “undersmell” is a part of the semi-religious mystery that Enoch believes is open only to the chosen few. Enoch takes Hazel to the dark secret, which is revealed to be a shrunken mummy in a coffin-like case – a symbol of mystery, death, and the past. It may remind Hazel of the small corpses of his younger brothers, whom he remembered being buried in the first chapter. This moment is climactic in Enoch’s mind, and he is waiting for what he feels instinctively is fated to happen, praying intensely that nothing will interrupt it.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
The woman with two little boys enters the room and comes to stand by the case, across from Hazel. She grins, and her reflection merges with Hazel’s in the glass of the coffin case. When Hazel sees her he starts, and a noise escapes from his mouth. Enoch thinks it has come from the figure in the case. He dashes out after the fleeing Hazel, screaming for him to wait. Hazel shakes him, demanding the Hawks’ address, but Enoch is not sure he knows it, and couldn’t say it now at any rate. He falls over, slumped against a white tree, with an exalted look on his face, and watches hazily as Hazel throws a rock at his head, knocking him out. When Enoch comes to, he feels the blood on his forehead, and watches as it seems to widen into a little spring on the ground. He knows that his secret blood, here in the heart of the city, has only just begun its work.
This woman, too, is clearly lonely and seeking for some kind of connection, but it is one that deeply frightens Hazel, so that her reflection causes him to flee. Enoch, in his semi-religious furor, thinks he hears the corpse speak. Running after the fleeing Hazel, his experience is somehow complete, and he is “exalted” – another word with distinctly religious associations – to the point that he cannot help Hazel with the Hawks’ address. Hazel’s violence toward Enoch is then an expression of his frustration with the world, and recalls a man kicking a stray dog. The blood becomes part of this experience for Enoch, though, and is almost sacramental as it plants itself in the soil.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon