The Christian themes of this work are informed by three considerations: Flannery O’Connor’s own Roman Catholic faith, her use of the grotesque style, and the southern agrarian tradition.
O’Connor wrote from the perspective of a Catholic author who viewed humanity as “fallen” and thus in need of the redemption that can come only through Christ. In Catholicism, such redemption was accomplished through the sacraments, which were the visible and physical signs of invisible and supernatural grace. What O’Connor insightfully grasped was the “violence” that lay at the heart of these rituals. Baptism was not just a rite of cleansing; it was the destruction of the old self that must precede the birth of the new. The Eucharist was not simply a shared meal of bread and wine; it both symbolized and actualized the crucifixion of Christ as the perpetual action of redemption. Although none of the characters in Wise Blood are Catholic (Hazel assures his landlady that the Church Without Christ is indeed Protestant), they represent fallen humanity to whom grace must come through physical violence. Thus, the senseless demolition of his car is the “sacrament” that brings redemption to Hazel, who then symbolizes his new “spiritual sight” by the destruction of his physical ability to see.
By her use of the grotesque style, O’Connor emphasized this sacramental perspective in which the physical world is intermeshed with, and...
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