In Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor tells a story of a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his inborn, desperate fate. Hazel Motes falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Sabbath Lily.
In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawks, Motes founds the Church Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Motes’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdom gives us one of the most riveting characters in American fiction.
Although Wise Blood is chock full of the sort of “large and startling figures” that O’Connor relished, there is a sense in which Motes’s journey hits the reader a little too close to home, challenging our sensibilities about who God is and how God is at work in our lives.