"Hazel Motes' Pursuit of Truth (Truth's Opposite)
In an unusual way, many of Flannery O'Connor's characters in Wise Blood reveal many important truths about themselves and others, demonstrating their capacity for vision, despite their tendency to embark on perilous journeys in pursuit of truth's opposite. For Hazel Motes, Wise Blood's protagonist, the phallus becomes the vehicle that drives him on his journey into falsehood, and paradoxically, toward truth.
Early in his life, O'Connor's protagonist learns to associate the phallus with sin, guilt, and atonement. Hailing from a religious family in Eastrod, Tennesseehis grandfather a traveling circuit preacherHaze's young sensibilities get shocked when he accompanies his father to a circus, where he slips past a barkerthe gate keeper for a measly fifteen cents and views a woman in a box, lined with black cloth: "All he could see were the backs of men. He climbed upon a bench and looked over their heads. They were looking into a lowered place where something white was lying, squirming a little
For a second he thought it was a skinned animal and then he saw it was a woman
(13)." Though the excited, male audience senses erotic pleasure in the squirming woman, Hazel feels appalled, especially when he spies his father among the "gawkers." Unconsciously, Hazel has begun to equate sexual arousal with the wages of sin. That night, after being confronted by his mother about his first glimpse of impurity, Haze immediately forgets "the guilt of the tent for the nameless, for the unplaced guilt that was in him (14)." As penance, Hazel attempts to evoke pain on himself in order to satisfy this feeling of guilt which thrives within himHazel is inevitably looking for a recognizable sign from God, which he doesn't receive. As a result of his crime of "vision", Hazel has begun to gain insight as a "seer" of impurity." At the age of eighteen, Motes joins the army and again manifests phallic guilt. When his army...
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