Wise Blood

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Themes and Colors
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
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Wise Blood, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Religion is at the core of O’Connor’s novel, as Hazel Motes struggles against the belief he was born into, and Enoch follows his own strange mysteries, investing faithfully in private rites and rituals.

Raised by a preacher, Hazel believed that he would become a preacher himself, but after time abroad in the war he became an impassioned atheist. Now Hazel struggles against that faith, a struggle that is both external (he aggressively struggles against…

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Although Hazel tries to assert his free will by escaping religion, his destiny seems to be tied irreversibly to belief and the life of a preacher, which finds him wherever he goes. Enoch, too, is driven by a sense of destiny that he thinks of as the calling of his ‘wise blood,’ although he too tries to fight against it in certain moments, also without success. Both characters seem driven by the accumulation…

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The novel’s treatment of its two main characters, Hazel and Enoch, illustrates a classic divide between the spiritual and the animal sides of humanity.

While Hazel constantly attempts to escape his spiritual calling and often acts instinctively as a means of avoiding it, he ultimately fails to escape his inner spiritualism. In the moment that he finally gives in to Sabbath Hawks’ attempts at seduction, for instance, she throws away his hat. This…

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Perhaps Hazel’s most lucid and compelling point as a preacher is the assertion that there is no truth, aside from the truth that there is no truth. He promotes empiricism, the belief that one can only know whatever one has direct experience of, and rejects those who claim to find truth through faith. This intellectual argument, though piercing, has little effect on the few listeners who assemble to hear Hazel’s speeches in the street.


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O’Connor’s novel tells the story of two deeply lonely outsiders - Enoch and Hazel – along with a set of supporting characters who are often equally isolated, from the tormented false preacher Asa Hawks to the lovelorn landlady, Mrs. Flood. These lonely characters are often driven primarily by a desire to connect with one another.

Enoch, for example, follows the unwelcoming Hazel in pursuit of a friend. Enoch has habitual (and thorny, characterized by…

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