Wise Blood

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Blood Symbol Icon

As the novel’s title suggest, blood plays an important role in Wise Blood. Like O’Connor’s other symbols, its significance is split. On the one hand, Hazel often asks those around him about the redemptive blood of Jesus, and where it can be found in the real world. This blood represents the ideas of sin and salvation that he rejects. For Enoch, on the other hand, blood represents the instinctual voice that drives him forward. He has “wise blood,” inherited from his father – and in some ways Hazel’s strange ways seem inherited as well, from the blood of his mother and grandfather. This wise blood takes over Enoch’s free will, pushing him to do things he despises.

Blood Quotes in Wise Blood

The Wise Blood quotes below all refer to the symbol of Blood. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Farrar, Strauss and Giroux edition of Wise Blood published in 2007.
Chapter 8 Quotes

Enoch Emery knew now that his life would never be the same again, because the thing that was going to happen to him had started to happen. He had always known that something was going to happen but he hadn’t known what. If he had been much given to thought, he might have thought that now was the time for him to justify his daddy’s blood, but he didn’t think in broad sweeps like that, he thought what he would do next. Sometimes he didn’t think, he only wondered; then before long he would find himself doing this or that, like a bird finds itself building a nest when it hasn’t actually been planning to.

Related Characters: Enoch Emory
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 129
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Enoch prepares for the destiny he feels coming inevitably toward him. His response to the beginning of this destiny reveals the extent to which he has been preparing for this moment his whole life – there is a sense in which Enoch functions as a prophet, the puppet for some divine instinct transmitted through his blood.

As a foil to Hazel, Enoch does not question this primitive religious sense of destiny. Rather than dwelling on the spiritual in an intellectual way, Enoch does not “think in broad sweeps” at all, focusing only on what is directly in front of him, with an animal’s instinct.O’Connor compares this instinct to the nest-building drive of a bird, suggesting that all of Enoch’s actions are deeply spontaneous and unplanned, but also part of a larger plan that he cannot see, but which is built into his DNA, inherited through his “daddy’s blood.”  

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Chapter 14 Quotes

“People have quit doing it,” she repeated. “What do you do it for?”
“I’m not clean,” he said.
She stood staring at him, unmindful of the broken dishes at her feet. “I know it,” she said after a minute, “you got blood on that night shirt and on the bed. You ought to get you a washwoman…”
“That’s not the kind of clean,” he said.
“There’s only one kind of clean, Mr. Motes,” she muttered.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes (speaker), Mrs. Flood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Blood
Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Mrs. Flood discovers Haze's self-imposed penance, seeing him in his room with barbed wire wrapped underneath his bloody shirt. The simple Mrs. Flood, who is not in the least spiritually inclined, cannot comprehend Haze's decision to punish himself for being unclean, fixating instead on the literal mess that his blood has caused. As far as Mrs. Flood is concerned, there really is no kind of clean outside of the literal.

Mrs' Flood's blissful ignorance of sin and guilt is in many ways the animal approach to living that Hazel tried so hard to adopt, but his spiritual destiny would never allow him to forget his conscience, formed by a deeply religious upbringing with an emphasis on redemption. Now, just as Hazel was never able to truly understand the un-self-conscious living of Ms. Watts or Mrs. Flood, Mrs. Flood finds herself unable to understand Hazel's spiritual obsession.

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Blood Symbol Timeline in Wise Blood

The timeline below shows where the symbol Blood appears in Wise Blood. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3
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
...bring Hazel back to their house. Enoch says that Hazel might think he has “wiser blood” than anyone else, but he doesn’t—it is he, Enoch, who does. Hazel stands, rigid and... (full context)
Chapter 5
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal 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,... (full context)
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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
...“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... (full context)
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
...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... (full context)
Chapter 6
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
...satin lumberjackets exit, Hazel begins to preach, asking them to show him where Jesus’ redeeming blood touched them. The group of women turns to look at him, and the thin man... (full context)
Chapter 8
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Enoch feels deeply that something monumental is beginning, and his wise blood is stirring. He does not plan, but finds himself proceeding according to instinct, like a... (full context)
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
On the orders of his wise blood, Enoch buys some curtains, gilt paint, and a brush. He is disappointed because he had... (full context)
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
...wakes up knowing that whatever important event is to come will happen that day. His blood rushes around, but he tries rebelliously to stay in bed and avoid what’s coming, surly... (full context)
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 is hurrying home now, eager to escape whatever thing his blood has in store for him. He is mad that his money was wasted on drapes... (full context)
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
...Without Christ need, he says, is a new jesus, one who is all man, without blood to waste on redemption, one who looks like no one else. Hazel calls for someone... (full context)
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
...but without making a sound. Hazel continues preaching, telling people to take counsel from their blood and enter into the Church Without Christ. Enoch tries to bellow that he has the... (full context)
Chapter 13
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
The Nature of Truth Theme Icon
...Hazel slaps him in the back, hard, and Solace stops breathing. Hazel cleans off the blood from the front of his car and leaves. (full context)
Chapter 14
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
...he does it because he is “not clean.” She agrees, pointing out that he has bloodied his shirt and the sheets, but he says it’s “not that kind of clean.” Mrs.... (full context)