Wise Blood Chapter 8 Summary
by Flannery O’Connor

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Chapter 8 Summary

Emery has always known that something big is going to happen to him, though he never knew what it would be. Now he knows it has begun, and if he were a thinking person, he might have thought that now is the time to “justify his daddy’s blood.” As it is, his mind is not equipped to do much planning, so he simply wonders what he will do next. Whatever is going to happen to him began when he showed Motes the horrifying thing in the glass case. It is "a mystery beyond his understanding,” but he knows whatever is going to be expected of him will be something terrible. His blood is still the most sensitive part of him, and it pulsates doom throughout his entire body, except perhaps for his brain. As a consequence, his tongue often knows more than he does.

The first out-of-the-ordinary experience he remembers is saving his pay. He started by saving everything but what he needed for rent and food; soon, however, he discovered he was not eating much and was saving that money, too. Emery is quite fond of supermarkets and goes to the stores often; lately he has been compelled to pick up small items that are not too bulky to hide in his pockets--which explains why he is saving so much money on food. He suspects his unusual behavior is all part of something bigger, since he has always had a tendency to steal but has never before had the urge to save.

Another odd behavior for him now is cleaning up his old attic room in a local boarding house, a house with “a mummified look and feel." Never before had he thought of brightening up his place, but now he works on it regularly. First he hangs his rug out the window, but it is nothing but a few long strings when he brings it back in. Next he washes two layers of dirt from the bed frame and discovers it is gold. In his fervor to discover more treasure, he scrubs the chair until he finds the gold, but he keeps washing it until all the gold is rubbed off. He wants to kick the chair to pieces but restrains himself; at present, he is not “a foolhardy boy who took chances on the meanings of things."

The only other piece of furniture in his room is a three-tiered mirrored washstand, designed with a marble slab and ornate wooden trellises of hearts, scrolls, and flowers. In the middle is a mirror; above it is a kind of crowned, horned headpiece. Sometimes in his dreams, he imagines himself inside the washstand, where a slop jar would be kept, performing “certain rites and mysteries” which he only vaguely understands. The washstand is the most important piece of furniture, but he leaves it and works on the pictures.

The first is a picture of a moose. Emery has always believed the animal stares at him with mocking superiority. He removes the picture from its heavy, ornate frame, and his act diminishes the animal, allowing Emery to snicker at it as if the moose were naked. The other two are pictures taken from calendars, one of a sleeping boy and one of a lady wearing a rubber tire. He leaves these alone. With the money he has saved, Emery buys some chintz curtains, a bottle of gilt paint, and a brush.

Emery is not sure what he is supposed to do with these supplies until he gets home and paints the slop jar cabinet with the gold paint. Now he realizes the cabinet is going to be used for something. He does not bother his blood by asking it to tell him anything before it is ready; he is perfectly willing to wait until it talks to him. For days, Emery's blood acts “in secret conference” with itself, occasionally stopping to shout an order at him.

The next Monday Emery wakes up knowing this is the day when his blood will tell him what he is supposed to do, but he wants to stay in bed. He does not want to justify his father’s blood, forced to do something he does not know, something out of his control and always dangerous. The blood, naturally, will not let him remain in control; Emery is at the zoo by 9:30, only a half-hour late. After his shift, he goes immediately to town, a place he does not...

(The entire section is 1,359 words.)