Wise Blood

Wise Blood Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Enoch feels sure that the new jesus will reward him in return for his service—he has Hope, which for him means “two parts suspicion and one part lust.” He is not sure what he wants, but feels a basic ambition to better himself until he is the best—he wants to see a line of people waiting to shake his hand someday. Enoch sits in his room all afternoon, waiting, stripping off what remains from the old umbrella until all that is left is a sharpened stick with a carved dog’s head on one end. He thinks it will “distinguish him on the sidewalk.”
Enoch’s quasi-religious faith in the mixture of fate and instinct that guides his life is—in opposition to the serious spirituality that Hazel deals in—distinctly primitive and animal. Enoch is lonely and wants to be accepted, even celebrated, like Gonga the Gorilla. The sharpened dog’s-head cane foreshadows a bestial violence to come, but is also comical in Enoch’s hand.
Themes
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
That evening Enoch takes the stick out with him to a little restaurant called the Paris Diner, with the nervous sense that he is going to receive an honor. The tall waitress, who doesn’t like Enoch even though he comes in every night, takes his order: a chocolate malted milkshake and split pea soup. Instead of filling it, however, she starts to fry bacon for herself. Enoch tells her he is in a hurry, and she says “go then.” He then changes his order to ask for a slice of the cake, and asks to be placed next to the only other customer there, a man who is reading the newspaper.
The small-town kitsch of the Paris Diner combines comically with Enoch’s anticipation of reward and his childish food order. Another in the series of fierce waitresses in Enoch’s life disrupts his attempt at a fine dining experience, and rejects his attempt to connect. He shifts his attentions to the other customer, still holding on to the hope of his religious reward.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Enoch sidles over to the other customer and asks if he might borrow a part of the paper. The man stares, and then hands him the comics section—Enoch’s favorite. Enoch eats the cake and reads, filling up with “kindness and courage and strength.” He then scans the movie ads on the back of the page, and sees a notice for Gonga’s last appearance in the city at the Victory Theater. The light of inspiration strikes his face, as if he were “awakening.” The waitress asks Enoch if he swallowed a seed. Enoch says goodbye, warning her that she might not see him again the way he is. She responds dismissively that any way she doesn’t see him will be fine with her.
Although he complies with Enoch’s request, the man’s unfriendliness leaves him isolated. Enoch doesn’t mind though, as he finds refuge in the comics that appeal to his childish personality, and fills up with a sense of virtue. Then, suddenly, his fateful moment strikes, as the reward that he deserves – another shot at Gonga – appears before him. Enoch persists in his failing attempt to forge a connection with the bristly waitress, but to no avail.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
Enoch hurries through the pleasant dark streets of the city, enjoying the lights shining in the puddles and the junk in the steamy windows. He stops across from the Victory Theater and watches, flushed with envy, as a line of people steps up to shake Gonga’s hand. Then Enoch darts into the back of the waiting black van. After the feature begins, the “gorilla” gets into the van, and his two “keepers” climb into the cab. They drive away quickly, and the drone of the motor drowns out the unusual thumping noises coming from the back of the van. At a railroad crossing, the van slows, and a small figure slips out the back door and limps into the woods.
With Enoch’s hopeful mood, the streets of the city appear much friendlier than when he hurried through them in the rain. He is stalking his prey now, animal-like, as his jealousy at Gonga’s many admirers – in stark contrast to his own situation, where no one seems able to stand him – grows and grows. O’Connor doesn’t show us the violence taking place in the back of the van, but the result is clear enough: Enoch has murdered the man behind the mask.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon
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In a thicket of pine, the figure lays down the pointed stick and something bulky he had been carrying. He undresses and folds each garment neatly into a stack. Then he digs a hole with the sharp stick. The moon reveals him to be Enoch, his face scratched and with one lump under the eye. He is burning with intense happiness, as he buries the stack of clothes in the trench he has dug. He does this not as a symbol of burying his past self, but because he won’t need them anymore. He takes up the bulky object from the ground and one by one his limbs vanish until he is replaced by a black, shaggy figure—for a moment it has two heads, one light and one dark, and then Enoch pulls on the gorilla costume head, adjusts a few secret straps, and is transformed.
The figure, still unnamed, steals into the forest like an animal. His last actions as a human are careful and measured, as he carefully folds his clothing and buries them, stripping off his humanity. Enoch’s joy is complete and instinctive – finally fate has rewarded him for carefully following the instructions of his wise blood. The object is revealed to be Gonga’s gorilla costume, and now Enoch gradually disappears within it. His head is the last to go, as the human within him is subsumed by the animal in a natural climax of his journey so far.
Themes
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
For a while he is still, and then Enoch begins to growl, beating his chest and jumping up and down. He practices shaking hands in the air, and then leaves the woods with the pointy stick under his arm at a cocky angle. “No gorilla in existence,” whether in the jungles of Africa or the richest apartment in New York, is happier than this one, “whose god had finally rewarded it.”
The transformation is complete, as the inner conflict – between human and animal – that existed in Enoch is replaced with a pure animal existence. He IS a gorilla in this moment, at least in his mind and in O’Connor’s description – even as Enoch misunderstands what exactly a gorilla is, or where it might live. This is an ascendant, religious moment for Enoch.
Themes
Religious Belief, Redemption, and Sin Theme Icon
Free Will vs. Destiny Theme Icon
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
A man and a woman are sitting on a rock, looking out over the city. The man turns and sees the gorilla standing there with its arm outstretched, as if offering a handshake. He eases his arm from around the woman and disappears into the woods. The woman turns, sees the gorilla waiting, and flees screaming. Surprised, the gorilla lets its arm fall to its side and sits down on the rock, staring out over the valley at the uneven skyline.
Here, the ever-lonely Enoch attempts to complete his joy by imitating what he has seen Gonga do with such envy: shake hands with other people, finally finding connection and admiration. Of course, the man and woman flee from the confused Enoch, while also abandoning one another—a move typical of the grotesque, selfish morals of many of the citizens of Taulkinham.
Themes
Instinct and the Animal Theme Icon
Isolation and the Outsider Theme Icon