Christianity vs. Entrapment in O'Connor Wise Blood Essay

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Christianity vs. Entrapment in O'Connor's Wise Blood

In "The Cage of Matter: The World as Zoo in Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood," William Rodney Allen addresses the "reverse evolution" of Enoch Emery and the "inverted quest for salvation" of Hazel Motes, suggesting a parallel between the two main characters of O'Connor's novel which reinforces its theme of the utter hopelessness of those who reject or mock Christ. Allen shows that O'Connor describes the spiritually devoid characters in her book in animal-like terms, equating faithless humans with soulless animals. The essay further asserts that O'Connor uses the zoo as a metaphor for a physical world that entraps those without spirituality. Indeed, the novel shows a world of
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Enoch's pathetic christening of the museum mummy as the "new jesus" garners him only disappointment. Likewise, his transformation into a gorilla fails to deliver him from his entrapment; as Allen says, "The human animal has come to the limit of his freedom, and he symbolically finds himself alone in his cage" (268). Throughout most of the novel, Hazel remains similarly trapped. Allen points out several symbolic traps that Hazel encounters, from his berth in the train to, paradoxically, his car, which Hazel erroneously regards as the way to freedom (262-63). As Allen points out, "neither the 'new jesus,' Asa Hawks, his own blasphemous 'Church of Christ without Christ,' nor his car can help him escape from the prison of himself" (267).

O'Connor's position is that a way exists for man to escape the prison of the mundane physical world, but it is not of self-will and has nothing to do with material possessions. This position is in contrast to those of many O'Connor contemporaries; Jack Kerouac, for instance, made a career of celebrating the joys of the physical world, most notably in his novel On the Road, which portrays the automobile as a quick ticket to freedom. Other American novelists, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby and Ernest Hemingway in The Sun Also Rises, decried the spiritual wasteland they saw the world as but offered little hope for escape from it.