Wise Blood

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Wise Blood Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day Hazel takes the car out to drive in the country. The sky is blue, with only one cloud, a large one with “curls and a beard.” A mile from town, he discovers the young girl proudly hidden in the backseat of his car. He is angry at first, but then he remembers his plan to seduce her, and changes his tone stiffly. She slides into the front seat and introduces herself as Sabbath Lily Hawks, telling Hazel that her mother named her that and then died. Hazel tightens his jaw, his pleasure in the car gone. Sabbath reveals that she is a bastard, as her parents were unmarried. Hazel is so surprised that Asa could have a bastard that he nearly drives into the ditch.
The bearded cloud is a reminder of one “family-friendly” vision of God. Sabbath has invaded the car, a space that Hazel cherishes as his own, but his anger at this invasion is comically cut short by the memory of his plan to seduce her. Sabbath’s mother is dead too, so they have that loneliness in common. The revelation that Sabbath is a bastard confuses Hazel, who is still convinced that Asa is a true believer, and is perhaps also still more concerned with sin and guilt than most people.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Sabbath tells Hazel about a letter that she wrote to Mary Brittle, the advice columnist. She asked whether, since she was a bastard and so could not enter the kingdom of heaven anyway, she ought to “neck” with the boys who tended to follow her. The columnist wrote back that light necking should be fine, and that maybe she should consider adjusting her religious outlook to the modern world. Hazel is still stuck on the idea of her being a bastard. Sabbath tells him about a second letter she wrote, asking if she should “go the whole hog,” but this letter never received a response.
Here, Sabbath begins to reveal that she is not so pure as Hazel thinks, and that she has at least thought seriously about not just “necking,” but sex, and with multiple suitors – but Hazel remains oblivious. The light sarcasm of Mary Brittle again points out that the seriousness with which Hazel takes religion is out of place in the modern world – he is an outsider. Still puzzling over the idea that Asa could have a bastard, Hazel misses all of this.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Hazel continues to interrogate Sabbath about Asa’s past, asking what it was that caused him to believe in Jesus. Sabbath slides her foot next to Hazel, but he kicks it away. Sabbath warns him to stop feeling her leg, and she suggests that they turn down a dirt road, where the view is consumed on one side by the city and the white cloud. Sabbath says they should get out to sit under a tree and “get better acquainted.” They go past a barbed wire fence, Hazel still asking Sabbath about Asa. Sabbath removes her shoes and stockings. Hazel protests, but follows her, still asking questions, which she ignores.
It seems clear that Hazel is not interested in Sabbath, but in Asa, as he tries comically to put off her open and forward advances. Just as she ignores Hazel’s questions about Asa, so he ignores the obvious intention of her suggestion that they walk across the field and get “better acquainted” under the tree. The mismatch between the two is comical, as Sabbath boldly removes her shoes and stockings.
Themes
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
Sabbath sits on the ground and motions for Hazel to join her. He sits on a rock five feet away, aware that he should be seducing her, but not eager to begin, given her apparent innocence. Sabbath asks him if his Church Without Christ can save a bastard, and Hazel says that in his church, there is no such thing as a bastard. Something inside him immediately contradicts this, though, telling him that the only truth is that Jesus is a liar, and that a bastard can’t be saved because no one can. He keeps this to himself, however.
Their figurative dance of misunderstandings continues, as Hazel is still convinced that Sabbath is innocent, another example of his own inability to see the “empirical” truth that is right in front of him. He is tied up in the theological and spiritual implications of a bastard in the Church Without Christ, unaware of the physical, animal event that Sabbath seems to be expecting. The bastard question troubles his rejection of sin.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
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Sabbath tells another story, about an unwanted child whose family sent it around until it wound up with its evil grandmother, who swelled up immediately, since she had violent allergies to anything good. The child, virtuous and kind, had a vision of its grandmother in hellfire, and it told her what it saw, but her swelling – a reaction to the good in the child - only got worse, until she went mad and hung herself with the rope in the well. “Would you guess me to be fifteen years old?” Sabbath asks Hazel, and suggests that he lie down and rest. He moves a few feet away and does so, putting his hat over his face. Sabbath crawls over to him and removes it like a lid, staring into his eyes. She lowers her head until their noses are almost touching and says, “I see you.”
Here is another child-centered story from Sabbath, a dark parable ending in death that seems to come out of nowhere. Clearly the frightening vision of religion that Hazel was brought up with lives in her too. She is quite young, but also bolder and more experienced than the awkward Hazel, who still doesn’t pick up on the true intention behind her suggestion that he lie down. When Sabbath removes his guard, though—the hat, a symbol of his spiritual nature—and really looks at him, Hazel is shaken in the same way he was by the owl’s gaze. It ignites something in him that feels guilty, and does not want to be watched.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
Hazel jumps away violently, and Sabbath runs behind the tree and says “I see you” again. Hazel heads back up the road to the unlocked car, but begins to panic when it won’t start. Sabbath comes to the window, and he asks her what she did to his car. Then he gets out and walks down the road to a gas station. When Sabbath arrives after him, she goes to a cage containing “two deadly enemies,” a wounded bear dusted with bird lime and a chicken hawk, glaring at one another. A man at the station drives Hazel and Sabbath back to the car, ignoring Hazel’s account of the Church Without Christ and its stance on bastards.
Sabbath repeats herself, reinforcing Hazel’s panic, which is only made worse by his faulty car. The vehicle of his free will, which would allow him to escape Sabbath’s gaze, won’t start. This is also a sign that what Hazel stubbornly insisted was true (that this is a good car) might not be. The animals cruelly bound together in the cage are a bleak image of the world, and the hawk is a reminder of Asa Hawks.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
The man puts a gallon of gas in the car, but it still doesn’t start. He silently examines the engine, not answering when Hazel asks him what’s wrong. The man has one arm and slate blue eyes. He slides under the car, and lies there contemplating its underbelly. Hazel continues to insist that it’s a good car, but the man doesn’t respond. He pushes their car with his truck, and it finally starts. Hazel asks him, triumphantly, what he owes him, but the man says that he wants nothing at all.
There is some masculine wisdom in this solitary, silent man, who can clearly see that the car is a terrible one. He helps them, but won’t lie to Hazel, won’t respond to his chatter, and won’t take his money. In contrast to the majority of O’Connor’s characters, who are greedy, shallow, grotesque, and animal-like, this man seemingly wants nothing and, despite his bad arm, is strong and self-reliant.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Hazel drives on, telling Sabbath he doesn’t need any favors. She says that the car is grand and drives smooth as honey. Hazel says that this is because it wasn’t built by foreigners or one-armed men, but by people with their eyes open. The truck pulls up alongside them, and Hazel brags about his car, saying that it can take him anywhere. “Some things,” says the man, will “get some folks somewheres.” The “bearded” cloud has turned into a bird with long thin wings.
Hazel and Sabbath lie to one another and themselves about the state of the car, once again ignoring the empirical truth. The silent man responds to Hazel’s bragging with a vague but evocative proverb. The god-like cloud that followed the pair on this country adventure has left, replaced by a bird – possibly a reference to Asa and the chicken hawk, or another reminder of the animal nature of humanity.
Themes
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon