Hazel Motes Pursuit of Truth (Truths Opposite)
In an unusual way, many of Flannery OConnors characters in Wise Blood reveal many important truths about themselves and others, demonstrating their capacity for vision, despite their tendency to embark on perilous journeys in pursuit of truths opposite. For Hazel Motes, Wise Bloods protagonist, the phallus becomes the vehicle that drives him on his journey into falsehood, and paradoxically, toward truth.
Early in his life, OConnors protagonist learns to associate the phallus with sin, guilt, and atonement. Hailing from a religious family in Eastrod, Tennesseehis grandfather a traveling circuit preacherHazes young sensibilities get shocked when he accompanies his father to a circus, where he slips past a barkerthe gate keeper for a measly fifteen cents and views a woman in a box, lined with black cloth: All he could see were the backs of men. He climbed upon a bench and looked over their heads. They were looking into a lowered place where something white was lying, squirming a littleFor a second he thought it was a skinned animal and then he saw it was a woman(13). Though the excited, male audience senses erotic pleasure in the squirming woman, Hazel feels appalled, especially when he spies his father among the gawkers. Unconsciously, Hazel has begun to equate sexual arousal with the wages of sin.
That night, after being confronted by his mother about his first glimpse of impurity, Haze immediately forgets the guilt of the tent for the nameless, for the unplaced guilt that was in him (14). As penance, Hazel attempts to evoke pain on
himself in order to satisfy this feeling of guilt which thrives within himHazel is inevitably looking for a recognizable sign from God, which he doesnt receive. As a result of his crime of vision, Hazel has begun to gain insight as a seer of impurity.
At the age of eighteen, Motes joins the army and again manifests phallic guilt. When his army buddies (or really, his acquaintances) invite the young soldier to accompany them to a house of prostitution, Haze refuses to be drawn any further into sin: He only stared at them, trying to steel his face. His friends told him that nobody was interested in his goddamn soul unless it was the priest and he managed to answer that no priest taking orders from no pope was going to tamper with his soul and left for their brothel (11). Once again, Hazel Motes is beholding what will later become his vision, impurityalthough he thoroughly strives to refute all impure activity at this point.
Upon being released from the service, OConnnors protagonist wholly attempts to unburden himself of sin, preferring to believe, in fact, that no sin exists at allthis belief seems to make the entire process much more easily understood and accomplished.
Still looking for a sign from God, Haze finds (what he believes to be) one: the literal and figurative sign advertising Leora Watts business on the bathroom wall. Paradoxically, this leads Haze to a business of phallic pleasure (a house of prostitution), where Hazels search for truth is once again manipulated and distorted by Leora Wattsthe prostituteand another, so-called seer. Having earlier been accused of looking like a preacher, Haze ardently insists before Mrs. Watts that he aint no preacher, that he has come for the usual business (17). Blind to his own capacity for seeing Jesus, Motes appears taken aback when the greasy-looking, pink negligee
prostitute demonstrates her ability to perceive truth of which he remains unaware. Snatching Hazes black (preacher) hat from his head, and briskly placing it atop her own, Leora unabashedly refers to his appropriate object as that Jesus-seeing hat (31)even she recognizes Hazes potential as a holy visionary. At this point, however, the hero of Wise Blood deliberately, and vociferously, denies the existence of God! Mrs. Watts, despite her coarse cheapness, illuminates the filaments of truth, which Haze cannot spark. Not unusual is the irony of allowing a common whore to see the light, where others cannot. Running like concurrent streams throughout the novel, the themes of sin and religious vision intermingle, often intersecting and fusing with one another.
Hazel Motes next attempt to explore and fulfill his phallic mission of impurity (not yet consciously realized by OConnors protagonist) is when he tries to seduce (at that particular time, prior to later revelation) the righteously convicted preacher, Asa Hawks, daughter, Sabbath Lily. In this case, Motes obviously wants a woman, but not for the sake of pleasure, but one he can teach something to and he mistakes the purity (or so believed) of the preachers child for innocence. In this context, the ambiguous teaching someone a lesson, conveys multiple messages, one, undoubtedly, connoting menace. At the forefront of Hazes mind, however, lies Hazes wish to teach Sabbath Lily that he doesnt believe in sinthus, revealing his wisdom to her.
At this point in the story, Hazel Motes seems to be the essence of OConnors sharper light of faith, for he begins to insist upon a disturbed view of the universe, despite his unrealized, nevertheless glaring faith which unarguably lies somewhere underneath his present pose of falsehood.
When humans can no longer satisfy Hazes phallic drive, he buys himself the ultimate phallic weapon, and Old Essex, a car, which he claims doesnt need to be justified (118). Instead of sleeping with another human being (woman), OConnors protagonist sleeps with his carthe phallic car imitated the sexual act itself. Haze now finds glorification in the possession of his new car, which for him exhibits both utilitarian and spiritual value: I wanted this car mostly to be a house for me, (112) Haze remarks. The car merges the functional and the religious, representing the embodiment of both house and temple (a very recognizable Christian concept).
At the close of the novel, this so-called temple for religion kills what turns out to be the True Prophet, (in contrast to Hazel Motes, the False Prophet) Solace Layfield, by first ramming him, then running over the body in an ejaculative thrust (another act symbolic of sexual arousal being equated to sin), and lastly, backing over the victim. For Hazel, this scene proves climatic, a turning point: soon, he will recognize totally his sin. With the completion of this act, Hazel Motesnow a true visionaryrealizes the fault of his deeds. Ultimately, he now receives the vision, the vehicle of his achieving being the way of the phallus. Hazel Motes, now has completed his journey to truth by completing his pursuit of truths opposite.