Chapters Three – Five
Hazel’s negotiations to buy a car have an easygoing humour, and we see more of his stubbornness, but I still don’t feel that I’m getting to know him. As he struggles to drive the roads of the town and on into the country, it seems that the landscape is without any distinguishing features, and Hazel doesn’t really know what he wants to do, until he remembers Enoch.
What is all this about Enoch’s blood? We’re told he “had wise blood like his daddy”, his blood gives him knowledge that something is going to happen, and he uses the messages of his blood to direct him. Okay, let’s think about this as a symbol. Blood can symbolize life or life force; blood is essential to the functioning of the body; the blood of Jesus is redemptive. (Jesus and redemption figure importantly in Hazel Motes’ preaching and his conversations.) So how are we to take the “wise blood” of Enoch? And what does it mean that, at the end of Chapter Five, he hears his “secret blood” beating in the center of the city?
In considering the book so far, I have to conclude that the author has a purpose in presenting to the reader such unattractive characters, such grotesques. My reaction has been, “I don’t know anyone like this, nor do I want to. ” But perhaps O’Connor is saying, in effect, “Push past those feelings and look at these people, consider them as possibly another level, another side of yourself. What if? What if you acted like this, said these things? Are you really so different?”
Since this is such a small book, I think I’ll write about my reactions to it as I go. I’ve waited a while before getting started, because I didn’t want to have forgotten the book by the time our meeting rolled around.
CHAPTERS ONE – THREE
The first thing I notice is the author’s ability to describe using few words. I like the “few hogs nosing in the furrows look(ing) like large spotted stones” from the window of the racing train. I feel as though I have been put down into the landscape of a black-and-white 1940’s movie, but the place is utterly foreign to me and the people unlike anyone I have known. And, perhaps fatally for the story, the author has not yet drawn me in, has not made me want to know more about them or what will happen to them.
Our November meeting gave us a chance to talk about how glad we are to have come to know more about Blessed John Henry Newman from our current book, and how impressed we have been with his holiness. He gave up so much to convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism–family, friends, reputation, income, occupation, and personal comfort, but he did it with joy, relying completely on God. He is, or will be when officially declared, a modern saint, one for our own time.
Moving from the subject to the book itself, one member declared that the author, Zeno, takes it very easy on members of the Catholic clergy who were distrustful of Newman and caused a great deal of trouble, particularly Cardinal Manning and Father Faber. In her opinion, Zeno tends to whitewash them, declaring that they acted in good faith and therefore were not at fault for the miseries, hardships, and misunderstandings they caused. She feels that a truer picture is given by Meriol Trevor in her classic two-volume biography of Newman. Another member, however, felt that the particular focus of Zeno’s book, Newman’s inner life, was exactly what he was looking for and gave him the insight into Newman’s character that he valued.
We adjourned for tea and the dessert brought by ‘bookgetaway’, which was a great hit, prompting seconds (and maybe some thirds), as well as a request for the recipe. Over our goodies we demonstrated to contributing members how to post to this blog, and discussed what book we would like to read for our January meeting. Our decision was Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI. We are eager to read the Pope’s insights into Scripture and into theological as well as historical studies of Jesus. Since the Pope has been working on a second volume to this work, it seems that this will be a good time for us to become familiar with this initial work.
We look forward to discussing Flannery O’Connor‘s Wise Blood on December 13, our next meeting.