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Essay/Term paper: Sexuality in wiseblood

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Papers

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That Heinous Beast: Sexuality



In the novel Wiseblood, by Flannery O"Connor, one finds an unpleasant,

almost antagonistic view of sexuality. The author seems to regard sex as

an evil, and harps on this theme throughout the novel. Each sexual

incident which occurs in the novel is tainted with grotesquem. Different

levels of the darker side of sexuality are exposed, from perversion to

flagrant displays of nudity. It serves to give the novel a bit of a

moralistic overtone.

The "Carnival Episode" illustrated Hazel"s first experience with

sexuality. The author depicts an incident surrounded by an aura of

sinfulness. Indeed, the show"s promoter claims that it is "SINsational."

In his anxiousness to view the sideshow, Haze resorted to lying about

his age. He was that eager to see it. When he enters the tent, Haze

observes the body of an obese naked woman squirming in a casket lined

with black cloth. He leaves the scene quickly.

This first bout with sexuality was certainly a grotesque one, and one

which, perhaps, helped fortify his resolve not to experiment with sex

for years to come. Haze reacted to the incident on different levels.

Before watching the "show," he was filled with curiosity. So badly he

wanted to view this "EXclusive" show. After glancing at the body, he

first thought that it was a skinned animal. When he realized what it

was, he at once left the tent, ashamed, and perhaps frightened of the

object before his eyes.

Hazel"s reaction was not unnatural. The sight with which he was

confronted would invoke both fear and embarassment within most

ten-year-olds. Not only was the body nude, but it was inside a casket as

well. The author parallels this vulgar display of sexuality with death

itself. But Hazel reacted to more than just the sight of the object. He

at once realizes that he was not supposed to watch the naked lady, that

it was sinful to do so. He feels ashamed for having gone inside the

tent, and punishes himself. Here, it is evident that the author means to

show that Sexuality is a sinful creature.

This moral tone is reinforced by the behavior of his parents during the

episode. Whilst inside the tent, Hazel hears his father remark

appreciatively about the nude body: "Had one of themther built into

ever" casket, be a heap ready to go sooner." After returning home,

Hazel"s mother realizes that her son has experienced something that he

should not have, and confronts him about it. Though he does not admit

what he has done, he proceeds to punish himself. It is inferred that

Hazel respects his mother"s attitude toward the matter. O"Connor seems

to propose that Hazel must do penance for what he has done, or, on a

larger scale, for witnessing vulgar displays of sexuality.

Perversion reaches its height when O"Connor introduces the reader to

Enoch Emery. During Enoch"s various dealings with women, one witnesses

vulgarity in all its forms. The events surrounding the first of these

incidents is tinged with a bit of mystery. O"Connor paints the portrait

of a Peeping Tom, an adolescent Enoch Emery watching a topless woman

sunbathe while hidden in between abelia bushes.

Strangely enough, the woman has a "long and cadaverous" face, with a

"bandage-like bathing cap." Ironically, the woman also has pointed

teeth, with "greenish-yellow hair." The woman is portrayed as a

corpse-like figure who is surprisingly similar to Hazel"s one-time

mistress, Leora Watts. Sexuality comes in the form of a corpse, an

allusion not to be missed. The narrator depicts Sexuality as being

analogous to spiritual death.

In this episode, however, one sees more than just the grotesque. Enoch

Emery introduces us to the grimmer side of sexuality, a side in which a

predator spies on an unknowing woman, and gains pleasure from it. The

meaning behind the scene is somewhat masked by the lascivious behavior

of a typical eighteen year old, but its aim is clear. Here is sexuality

at its darker side: one in which women are violated unbeknownst to them.

Enoch"s other dealings with women are also on the perverse side. He

enjoys making "suggestive remarks" towards them. The fact that they do

not respond to him results from two things. Firstly, the women do not

find him appealing in the least bit. At the "Frosty Bottle," the

waitress refers to Enoch as a "pus-marked bastard," and a "son of a

bitch." Secondly, the author points out that sexuality and perversion in

all its forms is evil.

Perhaps one of the most grotesque representations of sexuality in the

novel is found in Mrs. Leora Watts. The circumstances surrounding Haze

and Leora"s first encounter are rather distasteful. Hazel discovers her

address while inside a public bathroom, an incidence not to be taken

lightly. The author blatantly states her attitude toward prostitution:

that it originates within the most disgusting and disgraceful locales

of society.

The creature, Mrs. Leora Watts, is quite hideous, and grotesque in most

every manner. She is a large woman, with "yellow hair and white skin

that glistened with a greasy preparation." Her teeth were "small and

pointed and speckled with green and there was a wide space between each

one." When Hazel first meets her, she is cutting her toe nails, a task

not the most pleasing to witness. The room in which Leora Watts lives is

quite dirty. The atmosphere is not unlike that of a public bathroom.

Haze"s first sexual experience is an unpleasant one. It is almost as if

he has been captured and used by this monstrosity, when it was he who

initiated it. It is all the more ironic that it is a female prostitute

who is manhandling the male. The ceremony begins as Haze reaches for

Leora"s big leg. It is a rather strange action in that he does not

making any overt sexual advances towards her. He does not find her

appealing, he merely wants to have sex.

Through the course of the episode, Hazel behaves as if he were pained by

his own actions. When Leora grips his hand, he almost reacts violently.

In fact, "he might have leaped out the window, if she had not had him so

firmly by the arm." As she makes advances towards him, he moves rigidly

toward her. Hazel"s behavior is similar to that of a person doing

penance for sins committed. This is reminiscent of Hazel"s actions as a

child. O"Connor manages to convert an often joyous and pleasurable

experience into a painstaking one. Here, once again, we witness her

moralistic attitude toward sexuality: sex for pleasure ought to be

painful, for it is wrong.

Through the depiction of Mrs. Leora Watts and Hazel"s first sexual

encounter, it is more than evident that the novel treats the subject of

sexuality in a distasteful manner. Leora Watts is the physical

manifestation of the author"s disdain for sexuality and prostitution.

She is both repulsive and grotesque. Sexuality is treated as an ugly

thing, and sex for pleasure is seen as immoral.

In the novel Wiseblood, the reader is confronted with an antagonistic

and adverse view of sexuality. The novel represents sex as an evil, one

which encourages the basest forms of human behavior. Through individuals

like Leora Watts and Enoch Emery, the author depicts people whom have

reached the depths of perversion and the grotesque. 

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