Eyes Wide Shut
"'Do you think I believe in Jesus? . . . Well I wouldn't even
if He existed. Even if He was on this train'" (7).
Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (1952)
Points of Reflection
The Bible: 1 John 1:1-9
1. does the faith touted by John in this letter's opening root itself in reason, imagination, experience, or some combination thereof (v.1)?
2. to what/whom is John referring with the phrases "the Life" and "the eternal life" (v.2, ESV, NIV)?
3. why share this knowledge and experience instead of keeping it to oneself (v.3-4)?
4. to what might the words "light" and "darkness" allude in these passages (v.5-7, ESV, NIV)? Try to anchor these metaphors to concrete Biblical principles.
5. which appears to carry more weight here, actions or words (v.6-7)?
6. since sin appears to be inevitable, what action must humans apparently take to escape the burden of their sin (v.8-10)?
Robert Browning's "Andrea del Sarto" (c.1853; 1855)
1. does Robert Browning wish us to sympathize with the titular speaker of "Andrea del Sarto"? Be ready to provide evidence to support your claim.
2. what subtle types of evidence does del Sarto insert into his monodram that suggests his marriage is in trouble?
3. why is it that del Sarto believes his paintings, though more accurate than his peers' work, do not lift him towards heaven (ll.78-103, 117-32)?
4. why does del Sarto consider himself one of the "half-men" (ll.134-40)?
5. is del Sarto made more of in Italy, where he now resides, than he was in France (ll.142-66)?
6. why do you imagine that Lucrezia married del Sarto in the first place?
7. does del Sarto reveal what it is that he might need forgiveness from King Francis (of France) for doing (ll.214-18, 245-49)?
8. identify the inherent irony lacing lines 250-57.
9. what type of relationship does Lucrezia apparently have with her cousin/relative?
10. what strategy does del Sarto employ to deal with his pain?
11. search online for some paintings by Adrea del Sarto. Do any particular elements of his artistic practice get captured by Robert Browning's poetic depiction of the artist?
Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood (1952), chps 1-3
1. why might Hazel/Haze avoid looking at the beautiful sunset pointed out by Mrs. Hitchcock (3)?
2. what do you imagine Mrs. Hitchcock sees in Haze’s eyes that unsettles her--that she has to fortify herself against (3-4)?
3. what does Mrs. Hitchcock’s response to Haze’s query about redemption tell us about her religious sensibility (6)?
4. why include Haze’s interactions with and thoughts about the train’s porter (4-5, 8-9, 14)? Are we to assume that Haze is correct in recognizing the porter as member of the Parrum family that once lived in Eastrod? What does these men's exchanges reveal about Haze?
5. recall the division between light and darkness used frequently by St. John in the Gospel of John and I John. With that metaphorical binary in mind, consider Haze’s respond to light and darkness once he has been enclosed within his berth—his coffin-like bed on the train (9).
6. consider the visions Haze has as he floats between deep sleep (10-14) and a "half-sleep" state (9, 14) Does reimagining his past provide Haze with a respite from present difficulties (10-14)?
7. why does Haze consider shooting his foot, and why does he not do so (10, 11)?
8. why might Hazel Mote’s grandfather dislike seeing his own facial features reflected in his grandson’s face (11)? (Those of you who read O’Connor’s short story “A View of the Woods” will recall a different grandfather quite enamored of his granddaughter in part because they look similar.)
9. is it possible to extract Flannery O’Connor’s own opinion of Hazel Mote’s grandfather, the preacher who shouted the truth from the hood of his Ford, from the narrator’s description of the character (9-11)? Does the following observation, drawn from a letter O'Connor wrote to Sister Mariella Gable in May 4, 1963, shed any light on O'Connor's attitude towards this earliest of her fictional, Protestant preachers? “About the fanatics. People make a judgment of fanaticism by what they are themselves. To a lot of Protestants I know, monks and nuns are fanatics, none greater. And to a lot of the monks and nuns I know, my Protestant prophets are fanatics. For my part, I think the only difference between them is that if you are a Catholic and have this intensity of belief you join the convent and are heard from no more; whereas if you are a Protestant and have it, there is no convent for you to join and you go about in the world getting into all sorts of trouble and drawing the wrath of people who don't believe anything much at all down on your head" (Spiritual 143).
12. why does Haze, in his youth, want to become a preacher, and how does this motivation resemble his later decision that he has no soul (11, 12)?
13. explicate this passage: "Where he wanted to stay was in Eastrod with his two eyes open and his hands always handling the familiar thing, his feet on the known track, and his tongue not too loose" (11).
14. O’Connor’s narrator explains that it took Hazel awhile to realize/decide he had no soul “because he wanted to believe” it (11). On the face of it, this makes no sense, psychologically. Can you explain the apparent paradox?
15. Haze has attended the funerals of his grandfather, father, brothers, and mother. Have these experiences engendered in him a fear of death, or a comfortable familiarity with it?
16. in chapter two, a stranger once again finds something in Hazel’s eyes that compels their attention, the taxi driver who suggests that Hazel looks like a preacher not only due to his hat but because of a certain look in his eyes (16). What is Hazel seeking?
17. unpack the taxi driver’s paradoxical words to Hazel, his observation that, “'That’s the trouble with you preachers . . . You've all got too good to believe in anything'" (17).
18. what about Haze’s appearance, posture, and behavior suggests he is torn between competing impulses?
19. what drives Enoch Emery in the first part of the story? Putting aside the whole issue of the “mystery” in the museum, what does he appear to desire most?
20. do Haze and Enoch share a similar religious background?
21. is Asa Hawks a blind seer? Does he articulate truths that others ignore?
22. the narrator tells us that no one is looking at the night sky in the opening of chapter three. Does this “no one” include Hazel himself?
23. why is Haze so fascinated by and intent on following the blind preacher, initially? Does Haze’s slowly accumulating knowledge about Asa Hawks lessen, or heighten, his compulsion to know and understand the man behind the dark glasses?
Self Portrait (1921)
Dr. Paul Marchbanks