Wise Blood Chapter 5 Summary
by Flannery O’Connor

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Chapter 5 Summary

Every day when Emery is finished with his shift as a guard at the City Forest Park, he has a specific routine. First he goes to the park swimming pool where he sits on the bank above the pool and watches the swimmers. He watches one woman who comes to swim every Monday from the bushes where he will not be seen. He does the same when other women come to sunbathe. The “looseness” of the city is always shocking to him.

There is a secret place in the center of the park which he has discovered, a mystery right out in the open for everyone to see. Emery cannot show this discovery to just anyone, but he feels as if there is a “terrible knowledge” in him which must be released or he will do something awful. But he never goes there right away. First he goes to the hot dog stand for a milkshake and to banter with the waitress (who he imagines is secretly in love with him); then he goes to visit the animals. It always seems to him the animals are in some kind of penitentiary and do nothing but lie around, and Emery feels both awe and hate as he watches them. But after that, he goes to the secret place.

He woke up this morning and knew today was going to be the day the person he can tell will come; he knows it in his blood. He has wise blood, like his father.

Today a woman and her two children are at the pool, and he watches them from his hidden place. Suddenly he hears a loud grating sound from the other side of the pool; when he inspects, he sees a high rat-colored car rattling by several times, as if the driver were looking for someone or something. Emery watches a man get out of the car on the wrong side; the door nearest him is tied on with a rope. He is wearing a blue suit and a black hat, and he stiffly walks to the grass and sits with his knees drawn up.

Slowly Emery comes to recognize the man and slithers out of his hiding place in the bushes toward Motes. As Motes watches the woman dive into the pool, Emery walks up quietly behind him and watches him. They both watch the woman in the pool, and she smiles at them, knowing they are watching. When she slips her bathing suit straps down to sunbathe, Emery curses aloud and the spell is broken. Motes runs for his car and the woman is surprised at all the commotion.

Motes is in his car with a sour look on his face when Emery jumps in front of the vehicle to stop him. Motes asks the boy what he came here to find out; he wants to know where the blind preacher and his daughter live. Emery recognizes his position of power and does not tell him right away. Instead he slides into the passenger seat and whispers that he needs to show Motes something. All Motes wants is the address, but Emery will not be deterred and says he will not tell him until Motes looks at something.

Finally Motes drives as the boy directs him. Emery has a routine, and even now he is compelled to follow it. They stop at the Frosty Bottle for a chocolate milkshake and flirtation; Motes just sits and glowers at the unappealing waitress who drinks whiskey from a fruit jar behind the counter all day. She rants to Emery that he is a clean boy and should not be keeping company with the likes of Motes.

As they get up to leave, Motes leans over the counter, a foot from her face, and tells her he IS clean, adding that only if Jesus existed would he be unclean. In the car, Emery is insistent and almost worked into a fever that they go see "something"; he sees it every day but has not been able to show it to anyone, and now he has to show it to Motes because he was a sign. First they have to walk past the animals Emery hates, and Motes just continues to say he has to see the preacher.

Usually Emery stops to make an obscene comment to each animal as he walks down the line of cages; now he only spits at the wolves. Emery moves quickly past the last cage because it is empty, but Motes stops and stares, refusing to move. Emery is frantic to leave but finally sees what Motes is looking at. In the corner of the cage is an eye; the eye...

(The entire section is 1,261 words.)