Hazel’s hat is an outward sign of his outsider status. It is consistently described as “fierce,” and leads many to mistake him for a preacher. Halfway through the novel, he buys himself a new hat, this one all white, as a sign of his new direction with the Church Without Christ, but it does nothing to change his outsider status. The hat is also a sign of Hazel’s spiritual calling, and is often used to highlight a contrast with the baser, more animal nature of the people around him.
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The timeline below shows where the symbol Hazel’s Hat appears in Wise Blood. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...there—“she don’t usually have no preachers for company,” he explains. Hazel frowns, telling the driver that he is not a preacher, but the driver persists, telling Hazel that the hat, and... (full context)
...lots before they open, ignoring any salesmen, his face fragile and intense beneath his black hat. There are no cars to be found for fifty dollars, until Hazel reaches a near-junkyard... (full context)
...lasts, with Hazel’s eyes opening “onto a deeper blankness.” Hawks then jabs at him, saying that now Hazel can leave him alone. Hazel’s expressionless face moves back under his white hat. (full context)