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.
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon

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 of events outside of their control into the murders they commit, which raises the question of responsibility. Are we in control of our actions? Can we be evil – or good – without free will?

Hazel’s quest for freedom is symbolized most fully by his car, which represents mobility, control, and independence. But of course, it is perpetually broken down, comically denying Hazel the free will he craves.

After he finally gives in to Sabbath’s romantic advances, his desperate urge to escape from her the next morning is driven by the hope that his car provides him – but this hope proves futile when his sickness prevents him from leaving. The fact that his car then becomes the murder weapon suggests that Hazel is, in fact, responsible for the murder of Solace Layfield, the sickly impostor hired by ‘Onnie Jay Holy’ to impersonate him, since his car represents his will. Later, the moment when Hazel’s car is pushed to its destruction by the smiling police officer triggers his final collapse into his religious ‘destiny,’ as he becomes a silent ascetic, punishing himself physically in secret for the sins he has committed. The police baton that finally ends his life, almost accidentally, is in some ways another emblem of fate – he had tried, one last time, to exercise his free will in escaping the marriage proposal of his landlady, Mrs. Flood, and this senseless death serves as a final punishment for that search for freedom.

Enoch has been assailed, since childhood, with the voice of his ‘wise blood,’ which drives his actions even when he attempts to disobey, often leading him into situations he would rather avoid, like Jonah in the whale, brought to Ninevah against his will. There is a suggestion here that Enoch suffers from some sort of mental illness, which again raises questions about his level of responsibility for the impulsive (and destructive) choices that he makes. The reader witnesses his struggle to avoid the calling of his ‘wise blood,’ to exercise his free will, and also sees his will collapse in small and then larger ways, as his ‘destiny’ draws him to movies he would rather not see, and then, escalating in intensity, on to the murder of Gonga the Gorilla.

Ultimately, O’Connor’s novel presents two characters whose struggle to preserve their free will in the face of the force of destiny fails, with disastrous results. What value there is to be found in Hazel’s final, saint-like state suggests that the goal of man should be a stoic resignation to the forces of fate.

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Free Will vs. Destiny ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Free Will vs. Destiny appears in each chapter of Wise Blood. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Free Will vs. Destiny Quotes in Wise Blood

Below you will find the important quotes in Wise Blood related to the theme of Free Will vs. Destiny.
Chapter 1 Quotes

In his half-sleep he thought where he was lying was like a coffin. The first coffin he had seen with someone in it was his grandfather’s. They had left it propped open with a stick of kindling the night it had sat in the house with the old man in it, and Hazel had watched from a distance, thinking: he ain’t going to let them shut it on him; when the time comes, his elbow is going to shoot into the crack. His grandfather had been a circuit preacher, a waspish old man who had ridden over three counties with Jesus hidden in his head like a stinger. When it was time to bury him, they shut the top of his box down and he didn’t make a move.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes
Related Symbols: Coffins
Page Number: 13-14
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel lies in a bunk of the train's sleeping compartment and reflects on the burials he has seen. Soon he will have an attack of claustrophobia, as the memories of the deaths of his various family members accumulate in his nightmare and overwhelm him. The first image from that string of burials is of his grandfather, a fiery country preacher who terrified and fascinated the young Hazel. That elder Motes, we later learn, instilled in Hazel the dark tendency toward a self-hating, guilty religious sensibility. For this "waspish" man, religion was something pointed and violent, and he often verbally abused the young Hazel to make his point. It is to avoid following in his grandfather's footsteps that Hazel is fleeing now, toward someplace new; he wants to escape the religious destiny that his family background had ordained for him. 

In the mind of the younger Hazel, his grandfather had supernatural, frightening powers, but he was nonetheless unable to escape death when his time came. Death comes inescapably to the rest of Hazel's family as well, leaving him an isolated outsider with an ingrained fear of the death that must come to him eventually. 


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The boy didn’t need to hear it. There was already a black wordless conviction in him that the way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin. He knew by the time he was twelve years old that he was going to be a preacher. Later he saw Jesus move from tree to tree in the back of his mind, a wild ragged figure motioning him to turn around and come off into the dark where he was not sure of his footing, where he might be walking on the water and not know it and then suddenly know it and drown.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes
Page Number: 161
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel experiences a flashback to his time as a twelve-year-old boy, following his fiery grandfather and pious mother around the county to witness his grandfather's sermons, which might also be described as holy tirades. From that early age, Hazel's worldview becomes dominated by a fear of Jesus, who has been painted in his life as a dark, wild, vengeful creature. This Jesus is most at home in the wilderness, a nightmarish, creeping figure who haunts Hazel's consciousness, ever intruding on its fringes. This dark Jesus is always hiding just beyond the next corner in Hazel's life, even now that he has decided to flee his religious destiny.

The idea that Hazel could be unknowingly walking on water in the dark until he suddenly realized it and immediately drowned, suggests that what holds Hazel back from his faith is fear, or self-consciousness. It is a dark, frightening image born in the mind of twelve-year-old Hazel, and one that clearly still informs Hazel's morbid worldview as a young man desperately determined to escape the clutches of his religious fate. 

They told him he didn’t have any soul and left him for their brothel. He took a long time to believe them because he wanted to believe them. All he wanted was to believe them and get rid of it once and for all, and he saw the opportunity here to get rid of it without corruption, to be converted to nothing instead of to evil.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel remembers his introduction to the army, when two of his fellow soldiers invited him to join them at the brothel and he refused for religious reasons, to keep his soul clean. They respond by mocking Hazel's refusal, and at his attempt to convert them, confirming the novel's continual painting of Hazel as an outsider, different from the people around him.

Hazel is intrigued by their idea that he does not have a soul at all, since all his life he has felt chained down by his obligation to resist sin, weighed down by guilt. All he wants is to escape, and to sin deliberately would be one means of doing so – but he does not have the same animal ability to leave his conscience behind exhibited by his fellow soldiers, much as he would like to. He envies them this easy relationship with sin, a relationship that essentially negates the whole concept of sin by denying the existence of the soul. This is the truth that Hazel finishes his time in the army by believing, and now that he is back in the South he is determined to spread this truth – that there is no soul, and no sin, and no evil to be afraid of. 

Chapter 2 Quotes

They stared at each other for almost a minute and neither moved. Then he said in a voice that was higher than his usual voice, “What I mean to have you know is I’m no goddamn preacher.”
Mrs. Watts eyed him steadily and with only a slight smirk. Then she put her other hand under his face and tickled it in a motherly way. “That’s okay, son,” she said. “Momma don’t mind if you ain’t a preacher.”

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes (speaker), Leora Watts (speaker)
Page Number: 30
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel puts up resistance for one final moment before giving in to the waiting Mrs. Watts, a town prostitute whose address Hazel found scrawled on a bathroom stall in the town's train station. He has snuck into her bedroom uninvited, but she lies in wait on the bed, a grotesque, motherly figure. The two size one another up in silence, in an animal stare-down that ends when the highly agitated Hazel asserts his most important truth – he is no "goddamn preacher." This protest is unprompted, at least by Mrs. Watts – it's a response, rather, to the misunderstanding of his cab driver, who saw his hat and assumed he was a country preacher, and to the destiny he is desperate to escape.

This desperation is what led him to Mrs. Watts, since he believes that sin as an expression of his free will will finally break the hold that the guilt of religion has over his conscience. Hazel wants to escape his spirituality by chasing the animal in himself, and he comes to the animalistic Mrs. Watts to gain refuge from or otherwise try to escape that spiritual, religious side of himself. Be believes that sex with Mrs. Watts will be proof of his rigid belief in the nonexistence of the soul, an act of principle linked with instinct, but mostly divorced from desire. Mrs. Watts, for her part, misunderstands the frustrated Hazel, forgiving him good-naturedly as if he had been confessing a shameful fact about himself. 

Chapter 3 Quotes

“I come a long way,” Haze said, “since I would believe anything. I come halfway around the world.
“Me too,” Enoch Emery said.
“You ain’t come so far that you could keep from following me,” the blind man said. He reached out suddenly and his hands covered Haze’s face. For a second Haze didn’t move or make any sound. Then he knocked the hands off.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes (speaker), Enoch Emory (speaker), Asa Hawks / The Blind Man (speaker)
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel confronts the blind street preacher, Asa Hawks. Hawks is a figure of what Hazel might have become if he had followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, and Hazel seems fascinated by the dark vision that he represents – a fascination that Hawks picks up on, taking it as evidence that Hazel has some unresolved religious destiny that haunts his past and will inevitably catch back up to him in the future. The surprisingly intimate moment here, initiated by Hawks, who puts his hands over Hazel's face, shows us the kinship between the two dark souls, even as Hazel quickly rejects Hawks' touch. That Hawks presumes he has a right to this intimacy deeply angers Hazel, who has decided to distance himself from his religious destiny and hates being reminded that it follows him in spite of the many miles he has traveled during his time in the military, and the many experiences that ought to have divided him from people like Hawks. 

Enoch, meanwhile, pipes up in an attempt to join in, desperate as he is for connection, but is ignored by all parties. He is an outsider, even here among society's outsiders. 

“Sweet Jesus Christ Crucified,” he said, “I want to tell you people something. Maybe you think you’re not clean because you don’t believe. Well you are clean, let me tell you that. Every one of you people are clean and let me tell you why if you think it’s because of Jesus Christ Crucified you’re wrong. I don’t say he wasn’t crucified but I say it wasn’t for you. Listenhere, I’m a preacher myself and I preach the truth.”

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes (speaker)
Page Number: 51
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel makes up his mind to become a sort of anti-preacher, finding at long last the purpose behind his voyage to Taulkinham and the self-made expression of free will that he believes most perfectly subverts the religious destiny he hopes to avoid. Ironically, though, this new role will only further the public perception that he is a man of religion, and reveals his continuing obsession with the Church (even if that obsession reveals itself through his anti-Church teachings). This irony is encapsulated in Hazel's choice to begin his tirade with a curse that actually just invokes the figure, Christ, that Hazel had hoped to reject.

Rather than giving up the spiritual as he had hoped, he finds himself focused on it from another direction, reacting in anger against Asa Hawks' Christian evangelizing by evangelizing on behalf of his own, particular atheism. The most important principle of Hazel's new Church at this early stage is a vicious devotion to the truth, an atheistic truth that rejects any comfort Christianity might offer. At the same time, though, it relieves any guilt that Christianity might impose, by claiming that everyone is already clean and does not need to be cleaned, spiritually, by the sacrifice of the crucifixion. This obsession with cleanliness is a major part of Hazel's relationship to religion – he has been brought up to feel the guilt of sin very acutely, and fought all of his life to escape from the sense of dirtiness that his grandfather's version of Christianity suggested followed everyone wherever they went. 

Chapter 5 Quotes

He put his fingers to his forehead and then held them in front of his eyes. They were streaked with red. He turned his head and saw a drop of blood on the ground and as he looked at it, he thought it widened like a little spring. He sat straight up, frozen-skinned, and put his finger in it, and very faintly he could hear his blood beating, his secret blood, in the center of the city. Then he knew that whatever was expected of him was only just beginning.

Related Characters: Enoch Emory
Page Number: 95
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Enoch recovers after Hazel throws a rock that strikes him in the head, as the two of them flee from the museum at the center of the park that houses a shrunken mummy Enoch views as a religious idol. Enoch has gradually pushed Hazel toward this place, in response to the calling of his "wise blood," a sort of prophetic instinct that commands his actions. According to this instinct of Enoch's, Hazel has been chosen to receive the special mystery of the shrunken mummy – but when Enoch shows him, at long last, this secret idol, Hazel angrily rejects this calling. Now, injured and alone again, Enoch is exultant, seeing the world through the streaks of his literal blood. This blood seems magical, imbued with the power to create a spring in the earth.

This moment feels like an ancient ritual of sacrifice, one that might have been appreciated by the makers of the shrunken mummy, for instance. Instinct and religion blend for Enoch, who feels a deep reverence for the signs the world gives him, and a sense of destiny driven by the "secret blood" spilled in front of him now. 

Chapter 6 Quotes

Ten years ago at a revival he had intended to blind himself and two hundred people or more were there, waiting for him to do it. He had preached for an hour on the blindness of Paul, working himself up until he had saw himself struck blind by a Divine flash of lightning and, with courage enough then, he had thrust his hands into the bucket of wet lime and streaked them down his face; but he hadn’t been able to let any of it get into his eyes. He had been possessed of as many devils as were necessary to do it, but at that instant, they disappeared, and he saw himself standing there as he was.

Related Characters: Asa Hawks / The Blind Man
Page Number: 109
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, the dramatic truth behind Asa Hawks' false identity as the blind preacher is revealed. He is not blind at all, in fact; although he had once promised to blind himself, to prove his religious zeal, he was unable to carry out the blinding in front of those who had massed to witness the act. Asa now lives a lie, as a false preacher and beggar. He is not the pure, spiritual threat that Hazel at first saw in him, but a deeply hypocritical, bitter figure whose entire persona is based in a deception. Any true believer in Christ threatens Hazel's claim that there is no soul, but the threat that Asa represents is – in some ways disappointingly, for Hazel, when he discovers the truth – a hollow one. 

Back in his days as a preacher, Asa's zeal seemed real enough; he was prepared to blind himself, with a fiery passion that recalls the vengeful rhetoric of Hazel's grandfather. Ultimately, though, this passion was also deceptive, based in a need to over-perform belief. Hazel, later in the novel, rejects this need to perform and the lie at Asa's core by actually blinding himself and withdrawing from the world entirely, retreating into himself and his painful self-inflicted penance.

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.”  

I ain’t going in, he said.
Two doors flew open and he found himself moving down a long red foyer and then up a darker tunnel and then a higher, still darker tunnel. In a few minutes he was up in a high part of the maw, feeling around, like Jonah, for a seat. I ain’t going to look at it, he said furiously. He didn’t like any picture shows but colored musical ones.

Related Characters: Enoch Emory
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Enoch is wandering the town, attempting to avoid the call of his “wise blood,” but finds himself inevitably drawn by its command into a movie theater he had stubbornly hoped to escape. Here, O’Connor makes an explicit comparison between Enoch and a famous Old Testament prophet, Jonah, transforming the movie theater into the belly of the whale with a gaping ‘maw,’ or mouth. Jonah, too, had tried to escape his destiny by denying God’s call, but was duly punished by a storm that forced him to jump into the sea, where the whale swallowed him. In his inner dialogue, Enoch repeatedly denies the impulse of his “wise blood,” his frustration mounting as instinct continues to overcome his will to deny it.

O’Connor’s prose removes the decision-making from Enoch’s power – the doors to the cinema “flew open,” seemingly without his active participation, and he “found himself moving.” He is almost unconscious of the actions of his body, completely out of control of his instinct-driven choices.  

Chapter 11 Quotes

The child in front of him finished and stepped aside and left him facing the ape, who took his hand with an automatic motion. It was the first hand that had been extended to Enoch since he had come to the city. It was warm and soft. For a second he only stood there, clasping it. Then he began to stammer. “My name is Enoch Emery,” he mumbled…
The star leaned slightly forward and a change came in his eyes: an ugly pair of human ones moved closer and squinted at Enoch from behind the celluloid pair. “You go to hell,” a surly voice inside the ape-suit said, low but distinctly, and the hand was jerked away.

Related Characters: Enoch Emory (speaker), Gonga the Gorilla (speaker)
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Enoch waits in line to meet Gonga the Gorilla, an experience he sees as his divine reward for having followed his wise blood's commands so far. He plans to insult Gonga, an idea that gives him great pleasure – but when he feels the warm hand extended toward him, the first he has felt since arriving in Taulkinham, his loneliness takes over, and he decides to make a friend instead. Enoch's quest for connection reaches a climax here, then, as he reaches out to Gonga and is rejected by the man behind the mask, who tells him to "go to hell."

The man's ugly eyes emerge from the depths of the ape suit, which seems to have convinced Enoch he was speaking with a real ape until this very moment; Enoch feels real fear while waiting in line, taken in by the illusion just as much as the small children who wait with him. The revelation that Gonga is a man shocks Enoch, who reels at the collapse of a lie he has believed all this time. He vows revenge, having suffered the deepest rejection possible. 

The entire possibility of this came from the advantage of having a car—of having something that moved fast, in privacy, to the place you wanted to be. He looked out the window at the Essex. It sat high and square in the pouring rain. He didn’t notice the rain, only the car; if asked he would not have been able to say it was raining.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes
Related Symbols: Hazel’s Car
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel clings to the hope of escape from destiny that his car represents, at the moment when he feels most trapped, having begun his relationship with Sabbath Hawks. He is desperate to leave this place, this town, where he has only ended up circling closer to the religious destiny he had hoped to avoid. This desperate hope fills his whole mind, blocking out even any awareness he has of the rain pouring just outside. 

Hazel's car is a symbol of free will, and he sees it as a beautiful, precious vehicle capable of anything – in spite of the many voices that speak to the contrary, pointing out that it is in reality a cheap, broken-down, ugly clunker that is lucky to move at all. He is blinded by what it represents, by his desperation, and still unable to see that in fact both the car, and any notion of escape or free will, are doomed to fail. 

“I knew when I first seen you you were mean and evil,” a furious voice behind him said. “ I seen you wouldn’t let nobody have nothing. I seen you were mean enough to slam a baby against a wall. I seen you wouldn’t never have no fun or let anybody else because you didn’t want nothing but Jesus!”
He turned and raised his arm in a vicious gesture, almost losing his balance in the door. Drops of rain water were splattered over the front of the glasses and on his red face and here and there they hung sparkling from the brim of his hat. “I don’t want nothing but the truth!” he shouted, “and what you see is the truth and I’ve seen it!”

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes (speaker), Sabbath Lily Hawks / The Young Girl (speaker)
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, a dramatic confrontation between Hazel and Sabbath erupts when, after their first night together, she finds the shrunken mummy that Enoch has stolen from the park's museum and brings it to him, cradling it like the Madonna with Child. Hazel had been preparing his escape, gazing longingly at his car, when she entered the room, and he slammed the small figure against the wall in his rage. He feels trapped, desperate to escape the destiny crashing down around him, and Sabbath finds just the right words to stoke his greatest fear; by telling him that she knew as soon as they met that he would "never have no fun" because he "didn't want nothing but Jesus," she confirms that all of this work he has done to distance himself from his spiritual destiny is false and futile. 

Hazel, isolating himself again from any human connection, rejects her diagnosis of his inner desire for Jesus, and turns instead toward the truth as his ultimate goal. He is more deeply moved here than we have ever seen him, clinging to the truth as an excuse while remaining oblivious to the truth of the real world around him, nearly falling out the open door onto the wet ground below. 

Chapter 12 Quotes

No gorilla in existence, whether in the jungles of Africa or California, or in New York City in the finest apartment in the world, was happier at that moment than this one, whose god had finally rewarded it.

Related Characters: Enoch Emory
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Enoch strolls through the woods in Gonga's gorilla costume, having murdered its previous occupant and buried his own clothing. He has been completely transfigured into an animal – arguably, the state to which he has always felt most drawn. For Enoch, this transformation is a moment of perfect, religious joy, the completion of a quest to find his destiny that led him down many unexpected paths, as he followed the command of his wise blood, driven by instinct to this new form. He is perfectly happy in this moment, having achieved religious perfection in a way opposite to the intellectual, guilt-ridden, spiritual path walked so laboriously by Hazel Motes.

By comparing Enoch, as a gorilla, to other gorillas in "the jungles of Africa or California, or in New York City in the finest apartment in the world," O'Connor is taking on the somewhat childish, and perhaps even mentally deranged perspective of Enoch, using his inability to distinguish between man and gorilla as a surprisingly effective means of questioning the actual difference between the two. 

Chapter 13 Quotes

“You shut up,” Haze said, leaning his head closer to hear the confession.
“Told where his still was and got five dollars for it,” the man gasped.
“You shut up now,” Haze said.
“Jesus…” the man said.
“Shut up like I told you to now,” Haze said.
“Jesus hep me,” the man wheezed.
Haze gave him a hard slap on the back and he was quiet. He leaned down to hear if he was going to say anything else but he wasn’t breathing any more.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes (speaker), Solace Layfield (speaker)
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Haze kneels over the dying Solace Layfield, the man hired by Hoover Shoats to impersonate him, after having run Solace down with his car. Even after having committed murder, in a new attempt to refuse the calling of his soul and reject the truth about his destiny that seeing Layfield made all too obvious for him, Hazel is thrust as ever against his will into the role of a preacher, forced to hear the dying man's confession.

Full of contradiction still, though, Hazel leans in to hear what Layfield has to say even as he warns him to shut up. Hazel has rejected the whole concept of confession, based in ideas of sin and redemption that he associates with the horrible, haunting guilt of his childhood. But now, faced with the dying Layfield, he cannot help but perform his natural role as a confessor. This continues until, anticlimactically, Hazel ushers the pitiful Layfield into death with a hard slap on the back, stopping his mouth once and for all. 

Haze followed him around, telling him what it was right to believe. He said it was not right to believe anything you couldn’t see or hold in your hands or test with your teeth. He said he had only a few days ago believed in blasphemy as the way to salvation, but that you couldn’t even believe in that because then you were believing in something to blaspheme. As for the Jesus who was reported to have been born at Bethlehem and crucified on Calvary for man’s sins, Haze said, He was too foul a notion for a sane person to carry in his head… he began to curse and blaspheme Jesus in a quiet but intense way but with such conviction that the boy paused from his work to listen.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes
Page Number: 208
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Hazel berates the gas station attendant with his usual tirade on the nonexistence of Christ, but with his angry speech only continues to emphasize the depth of those beliefs he wants desperately to escape. Totally unprompted by the attendant, Hazel launches into his monologue about truth and religion, but his obsessive denial of Christianity has begun to collapse on itself. He has begun to realize, in just the last few days, that blasphemy cannot be the way to the salvation because you can't believe in blasphemy without "believing in something to blaspheme."

Hazel almost seems, in this moment, to be taking a step toward self-awareness, realizing that the truth of his crusade against religion is actually an obsession with redemption and sin, that in attempting to run away from his destiny he only circles back around from the other side. This self-awareness vanishes, though, as, just after warning the boy against blasphemy, Hazel begins to blaspheme with such intensity that the boy pauses in his work to listen. Hazel is incapable of recognizing the hypocrisy of his speech, even as he turns from one argument to another in the course of a single tirade. 

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.

She had never observed his face so composed and she grabbed his hand and held it to her heart. It was resistless and dry. The outline of a skull was plain under his skin and the deep burned eye sockets seemed to lead into the dark tunnel where he had disappeared. She leaned closer and closer to his face, looking deep into them, trying to see how she had been cheated or what had cheated her, but she couldn’t see anything. She shut her eyes and saw the pin point of light but so far away that she could not hold it steady in her mind. She felt as if she were blocked at the entrance of something. She sat staring with her eyes shut, into his eyes, and felt as if she had finally got to the beginning of something she couldn’t begin, and she saw him moving farther and farther away, farther and farther into the darkness until he was the pin point of light.

Related Characters: Hazel ‘Haze’ Motes, Mrs. Flood
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:

In this quote, Mrs. Flood stares into Hazel's eyes after he has passed away, brought back from the winter storm by a pair of policemen who accidentally kill him en route. Mrs. Flood has become fascinated by the distance that separates her from Hazel, by his perspective on the world which is so foreign and inscrutable to her, and now that he is dead this distance is all the greater, drawing her in still further so that she holds his hand to her heart. The outline of a skull in his face, a sort of Memento Mori, is a reminder of the ephemerality of life and the closeness of death, which Hazel sought out so determinedly. 

Determined to bridge the gap between them and understand the secret that gives Hazel the composure and conviction she sees in him now, Mrs. Flood closes her eyes; Hazel has already told her that one sees more acutely when one is blind, a claim he makes literal by blinding himself to the world in order to see inside himself more clearly. With the focus that this gives her, she is able to see what is perhaps the image of Hazel's soul passing on into the afterlife, peaceful and distant, leaving the world and its struggles behind forever.