Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Wise Blood chronicles the last few months of Hazel Motes’s life, beginning with his leaving the army and moving to the city and ending with his death there. His pilgrimage dramatizes his attempt to disprove the religion of his grandfather, an itinerant backwoods preacher. Two images—one of his grandfather preaching from the hood of his old car and another of a ragged Christ who stalks him from behind trees—have haunted him so thoroughly that Hazel feels compelled to test God.

From the beginning of the novel, Hazel concentrates on making a sort of antireligious testimony to anyone who will listen. He startles two women on the train to Taulkinham by suddenly announcing that he has no use for salvation. In a similar negative testimony, he spends his first few nights in the city with a prostitute, Leora Watts. Ironically, like the cab driver who took Hazel to Mrs. Watts’s house, Leora Watts recognizes immediately that Hazel is driven by religion, although she supposes that he is some sort of preacher.

It is Jesus whom Hazel most wants to escape, and thus, moved partly by the sight of the false preacher Asa Hawks, Hazel creates the Church Without Christ. He believes that his church will demonstrate the truth of his belief that Jesus is only a trick. For the same reason, Hazel buys a car, an ancient, rat-colored Essex. His claim that a man with a good car has no need of salvation is a sort of parody of all the slogans of the secular...

(The entire section is 585 words.)