Thursday, September 20, 2012

Martyrs for a Cause: A Review on Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

Hazel Motes has lost his faith. Struggling with his lack of beliefs, he begins to follow the street preacher, Asa Hawks, a blind man whose daughter, Lily Sabbath, works with him, as they proclaim their teachings to those who will listen. In a gesture of his disbelief, Hazel Motes establishes The Church of God Without Christ, only to find himself worse off than he was before. Along with meeting Enoch Emery, Hazel Motes finds himself on a road with an unknown destination and the circumstances of his life spinning out of his control.

Wise Blood is the first novel written by Flannery O'Connor back in 1959 and I have one thing to say about it.

This book gave me the creeps.

I read this book for the first time over a year ago as part of my research for my thesis project and even now I can still remember the name, Hazel Motes, and the circumstances that befell him. I remember finishing the book and just sitting there flabbergasted over the tragedy of this novel. I had to take time to recover, or at least that's what it felt like. But it was obviously effective, because like I said, I still remember this book. I can name characters, various events, and the ending of this extraordinary novel. This fact, among others, is the reason why O'Connor is one of the leading names of American Literature. Now I'm reading it again and without a doubt, it's a very disconcerting piece of work.

How many of you have read O'Connor's short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find"? The one about an old grandmother on a drive with her son and his family for their vacation when they find themselves stranded and at the mercy of three questionable men? (If everyone says no, I wouldn't blame them. If it weren't for my project, I'd have waited another few years before finally reading something by O'Connor, as it seems that many schools and lecturers avoid teaching her work.) I read it as a sort of introduction to O'Connor's work and if I thought that story threw me for a bit of a loop, it was nothing compared to the life and times of Hazel Motes, captured in this novel.

Hazel Motes is angry, disillusioned. He has struggled with his disbelief for years and now, after having been discharged from service in the army, he is even more certain of the fact that he is an atheist. Having decided this, he is determined to spread the word to others. There are no shades of gray for Hazel Motes. There is right and wrong, black and white. He is capable of powerful instances of emotion, mostly violent. Its as if nothing ever manages to live up to his expectations, including himself, and as such, the fate he finds is of his own creation. Enoch, Lily and Asa are just as afflicted, each suffering from their own set of complications, with their fates tied into the life of Hazel Motes.

And Hazel isn't the only violent one. Let's just say that nearly everyone in this book comes to some sort of horrible end or causes some kind of pain to another character. No one ends up happily ever after. To say anything more of the plot would be pointless; it's more of a 'you need to read it to believe it' kind of thing. Research on O'Connor states that she was interested in writing about the grotesques, and the absolute, gritty reality of Southern life. She managed that, without a doubt, with this disturbing novel. Her writing is brutal, exacting in its depictions of its characters, and I hope to one day have the nerve to read this book in its entirety once again.

Rating: 7 Stars

O'Connor is a well-respected writer in American literature. Her short story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find," is constantly listed for the comprehensive exam to get your MA every year at my former university (I opted to write the thesis instead of taking the scary exam). As such, I can't help but feel that even though this book freaked me out a bit, I may end up enjoying her other works. Also, I have to respect the fact that this book managed to have such an effect on me. Even if it was unsettling, this book deserves some kind of accolades for managing that. But be warned, this book may not be for the fainthearted. Some may undoubtedly hate it. But have no doubt, you will have some kind of STRONG opinion about it, guaranteed.

No comments:

Post a Comment