The meaning of "Wise Blood" is hard to discern, since O'Connor writes with such magnificent economy and simplicity. She etches out a dismal picture-full of gray and rain and pain and indifference. I'm not sure exactly what she had in mind, but this is how it struck me...I think Hazel Motes is already dead when the story begins, killed in the war after enduring great physical and emotional pain. He never talks about his combat experiences, and from his bitter silence we can infer his overwhelming sense of guilt and disillusion. He cannot reconcile the inhumanity he's experienced with a notion of Jesus that is just words to him. So when his train reaches Taulkinham, the scene of his cleansing, he preaches the Church Without Christ. He proclaims Jesus to be a liar. Man has not been redeemed. If we were redeemed, there would be some evidence somewhere-but there isn't. And indeed, the townsfolk make his case. Asa Hawks is a loathsome fraud. His daughter, Sabbath, luxuriates in her moral corruption. Enoch Emory-the outsider with "wise blood"-laments that nobody in town will shake his hand. People stare at the street in somber silence as they go through the motions of life. Taulkinham is all hate and crass self-interest, literally a town bereft of redemption. Taulkinham is a dirty reflection of Haze's own soul: his accusatory preaching bounces indifferently off his few pitiful listeners and back into him, driving him to greater exasperation and violence. The more he rails against judgment, the more surely he feels himself judged. The more he feels himself judged, the more he denies his judge. Finally, after a crowning act of defiance, he tries to leave town, but is rebuffed by a policeman who pushes his car off a cliff with the coolness of a man buttering toast. At this point Haze moves from defiance to acceptance, and undertakes to cleanse himself. He subjects himself to every form of pain and torment he can devise, and waits patiently for salvation. Eventually, his landlady, Mrs. Flood, attempts to ease his pain for mainly selfish motives. Haze sees through her easily despite his blindness. He suddenly knows it is time to go; his blood is now "wise"-it tells him what to do without him needing to think it. Go where?, Mrs. Flood asks. He goes off to escape his purgatory, of course, and after a few days wandering around in the freezing cold, he winds up near death, seemingly nowhere. But a policeman's billy club bashed upon his semi-conscious head punctuates his victory. Dead to the world at last, he can live. Jesus has taken him home.