Wise Blood


Flannery O’Connor

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Wise Blood Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Flannery O’Connor's Wise Blood. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Flannery O’Connor

The daughter of a real estate agent in Georgia, Mary Flannery O’Connor studied Social Sciences at Georgia State College for Women, and then went on to study at the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she began work on what would become Wise Blood. Over the course of her career she published two novels, two collections of short stories, and many essays. She was a devout Catholic and keen observer of life in the South. After being diagnosed with lupus, the disease that had killed her father, O’Connor was given five years to live, but continued to live on her ancestral farm for fourteen more, raising birds and writing. Her work has won numerous awards and honors, and she is now considered one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century.
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Historical Context of Wise Blood

The war from which Hazel is returning is presumably World War II, although it is never discussed outright in the book. The picture painted by O’Connor’s novel of the post-war situation in the South highlights a few of the important issues of the era, particularly the struggle of women and minorities for equality. O’Connor showcases a number of instances of overt racism or misogyny, and the female and African-American characters that appear in the novel in service roles – the many waitresses and the porter in the train – are often fierce, steeled against the hardships of the world they live within, while the white police force, in particular, is painted as grotesque, insensitive, and cruel.

Other Books Related to Wise Blood

O’Connor’s writing fits within the tradition of literature of the American South, particularly among works focusing on certain grotesque features of the region, including the writings of William Faulkner, for example. Faulkner’s Light in August, for instance, examines many themes that are also found in O’Connor’s work, including religion, the outsider, racism, sexism, and the animal instinct. O’Connor studied at the University of Iowa, birthplace of many great writers, where she met Robert Penn Warren, another influential writer of Southern literature, who wrote All the King’s Men. O’Connor’s insistence on the darkness of humanity, and her resistance to the idea of progress that was at the heart of modernism in the twentieth century, have also led her work to be compared to that of writers like Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness) and Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter).
Key Facts about Wise Blood
  • Full Title: Wise Blood
  • When Written: 1947-52
  • Where Written: Iowa, New York, Georgia
  • When Published: May 15, 1952
  • Literary Period: Southern Gothic
  • Genre: Southern Gothic Novel
  • Setting: Taulkinham, Tennessee
  • Climax: In the novel’s climax, both protagonists commit separate murders. Hazel runs down the man hired to be his imposter with his car, and Enoch murders the man in the Gonga the Gorilla suit.
  • Antagonist: Asa Hawks
  • Point of View: Third person, following the perspective of various characters

Extra Credit for Wise Blood

Chicken. When she was six, Flannery O’Connor starred in a short Pathé News film featuring her chicken, which had been trained to walk backwards.

Georgia Peacocks. Before dying of lupus at age 39, Flannery O’Connor lived on a farm in Georgia and raised many exotic birds, including some 100 peafowl.