The Essex And Hazel Motes In Flannery

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The Essex And Hazel Motes In Flannery O’connor’s Wise Essay, Research Paper The Essex and Hazel Motes in Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood In her 1952 novel Wise Blood, Flannery O’Connor presents Hazel Motes’s Essex automobile as a symbol for Hazel himself. The car’s dilapidated state corresponds to Motes’s own spiritual decay; however, the initial quality of the car’s workmanship corresponds to Hazel’s Christian upbringing, which he cannot deny in spite of himself. Motes’s identification with and reliance upon his car as a means of escape becomes ironic as the Essex continually fails to deliver him from his demons; Hazel’s dependence on his car (despite his contentions that he is not concerned with material possessions) actually holds him back.

O’Connor writes of Motes’s Christian childhood in chapter one of Wise Blood, in which Hazel associates his cramped berth on the train with memories of entrapment from his youth. Hazel thinks back to “the first coffin he had seen with someone in it,” which belongs to his grand father: “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” (O’Connor 9). The grandfather is a powerful influence on Hazel, imprinting Hazel’s consciousness with the image of a traveling evangelist who preaches from the nose of an automobile. O’Connor writes that Hazel “knew by the time he was twelve years

old that he was going to be a preacher” (10); Hazel has not only a profession to pursue but also a prototype to model himself on. Hazel’s associations of entrapment with Christianity and automobiles prove meaningful throughout the novel as he embarks upon his own career as a “preacher” and develops a relationship with his own car. Indeed, Hazel seems to want to become the antithesis of his own grandfather by preaching the blasphemous tenets of his own “Church Without Christ” from the nose of his Essex automobile. Complicating Hazel’s confused conceptions of entrapment, sin, and Christianity is the episode involving the Melsy carnival, at which Hazel and his father pay to see a woman lying in a coffin. Hazel’s father has a lustful reaction to the woman; he says

“Had one of themther built into ever’ casket . . . be a heap ready to go sooner” (32). Haze’s “shut-mouthed” mother, who O’Connor describes as having a “cross-shaped face,” senses Haze’s guilt when he returns home (32-33). Telling him that “Jesus died to redeem you,” she whips him with a stick, leaving him with a “nameless unplaced guilt” (33). The actions of his parents leave Motes unable to distinguish what is good and Christian from what is forbidden and evil. He associates his grandfather with Christianity but also entrapment; he associates entrapment with the carnival episode, in which his father treated the woman as desirable but after which Hazel was made to feel guilty. Hazel Motes’s Christian upbringing continues to be significant in later

chapters of Wise Blood. Several characters notice an inherent goodness in Hazel that shows through despite his determination to deny it. The FROSTY BOTTLE waitress, who says, “I know a clean boy when I see on e,” warnsthe “nice boy” Hazel to stay away from Enoch, lest he be corrupted by the “goddamned son a bitch”(46-47). Hazel responds, “I AM clean,” making it evident that he means something different by the word “clean.” Near the end of the book, Mrs. Flood notes Motes’s Christian-like ways: “You must believe in Jesus or you wouldn’t do these foolish things. You must have been lying to me when you named your fine church. I wouldn’t be surprised if you weren’t some kind of a agent of the pope or got some connection with something funny” (116).